Feeds

Hubble confirms planets are made from dust

Don't tell Kim 'n' Aggie

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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 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
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.