Feeds

Extra-solar planet snapped by galactic paparazzi

Kinda blurry

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

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

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Stray positrons caught on ISS hint at DARK MATTER source
Landlubber scope-gazers squint to horizons and see anti-electron count surge
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.