First ever photographed planets

Three imaged exo-planets.

Three imaged exo-planets.

The first ever extrasolar planets have been photographed. Story at the BBC.

Christian Marois of the Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics and his team used the Keck and Gemini telescopes in Hawaii to look near a star called HR 8799, which is just visible to the naked eye.

The team looked for light in the infrared part of the spectrum, hoping to spot planets that were still hot from their formation.

What they found in 2004, and confirmed again this year, are three planets circling the star.

According to a theoretical model that accounts for the light coming from the planets, they range in size from five to 13 times the mass of Jupiter and are probably only about 60 million years old.

The trio have similarities with our own solar system. Their orbits are comparable in size to those of the outer planets, and the smaller planets are those closest to the sun – again suggesting a system that formed through accretion.

Well, I’ve got my suitcases packed.


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