Feeds

Hubble confirms planets are made from dust

Don't tell Kim 'n' Aggie

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Immanuel Kant was right: planets are formed from disks of dusty debris swirling around stars. NASA says images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope finally confirm Kant's prediction, made over 200 years ago.

The images, captured by Hubble back in 2000, show a planet orbiting in the same plane as its star's disk of dust. Over 200 examples of stars with extra solar planets have been found and there is no shortage of examples of young stars encircled by disks of debris. But prior to this Hubble image, there had been no evidence of both co-existing.

The planet orbits a Sun-like star called Epsilon Eridani, just 10.5 light-years from Earth in the constellation Eridanus. The planet's orbit is inclined 30 degrees to Earth, the same angle at which the star's disk is tilted.

In this, it is similar to our own solar system, where all the planetary orbits* are aligned. This has been interpreted as evidence that they all formed at the same time as the sun's disk. But Epsilon Eridani is much younger than our sun - only 800 million years old - so its disk has not yet dissipated, so both the planet and the Hubble confirm disks can co-exist.

The planet is the nearest extra-solar planet to Earth that has been found so far. It is now known to be around 1.5 times as massive as Jupiter, and it orbits its star every 6.9 years.

"Because of Hubble, we know for sure that it is a planet and not a failed star," Barbara McArthur of the University of Texas explained. She led the research along with her colleague G Fritz Benedict.

Making that deduction was not the work of five minutes. The team first identified the planet using the radial-velocity method. This measures tiny changes in a star's motion towards and away from Earth to infer the existence of unseen companions.

The team studied over a thousand astrometric observations from Hubble combined with other astrometric observations made at the University of Pittsburg's Allegheny Observatory. All this data was added to hundreds of ground-based radial-velocity measurements made over the past 25 years at various telescopes including the European Southern Observatory in Chile, and the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas.

Their work is to be published in the November issue of the Astronomical Journal.

*Yes, all. See the demotion of Pluto for more details.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.