Thursday, September 18, 2008

Astronomers may have first picture of an extra-solar planet

A group of Canadian astronomers may have the first picture of a planet circling a star other than our Sun, reports National Geographic. Further observation is needed to confirm the object (probably a gas giant 8-times the size of Jupiter) is actually circling the star it’s photographed next to.

If this turns out to be the real deal, this is a big step in exo-planetary exploration. Until now, discovery of planets circling other stars has been a bit abstract. Basically, a “discovery” is made when scientists detect tiny wobbles in a star’s rotation. In theory, the wobble is caused by a circling planet’s own gravity. And then using spectral analysis, scientists can learn more details about the planet (for example, the composition of its atmosphere).

(Photo courtesy Gemini Observatory)

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.