Feeds

Extra-solar planet snapped by galactic paparazzi

Kinda blurry

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Ever wondered what a planet looks like from a distance of 225 light-years? No-one really knows, because no direct image has ever been taken before. But astronomers examining at data from the Very Large Telescope in Chile spotted a faint mark next to a young brown dwarf star.

On closer examination using Hubble's infrared cameras, they were able to classify it as a candidate planet, because it is only 100th the brightness of its stellar companion.

Hubble's artificial-colour view of the brown dwarf and giant planet companion candidate

Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) camera can make observations at wavelengths that would be invisible from the ground. Complementary images, taken at these shorter wavelengths, are important because they help characterise the physical nature of an object being observed.

The Hubble pictures were taken in August last year, and then compared with data from the earlier VLT observations. Astronomers needed to rule out the possibility that the planet candidate was merely a background object.

If the candidate planet does orbit the brown dwarf, then the pair will move across the sky together. Confirming this was made easier because the two objects are so far apart - approximately eight billion kilometres. This means the "planet" takes around 2,500 years to complete one orbit.

In four months of observation, this orbital movement would be so slight as to be undetectable from Earth. So any change in the relative positions of the two objects would immediately confirm the second object is in the background. The scientists did not detect any relative movement, providing reasonable evidence that the two bodies are companions.

Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona says the measurements provide a "99 per cent level of confidence" that the planet candidate does orbit the brown dwarf. More observations with Hubble are planned to remove that remaining uncertainty, he says. ®

Related stories

NASA celebrates martian Spirit of adventure
Boffins issue stealth comet apocalypse alert
Supernova revealed in gamma rays

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.