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Hubble's Exoplanet Pics Outshined by Keck's 140

Posted by timothy
from the keckkeckkeck-is-the-new-bwahaha dept.
dtolman writes "Scientists at the Keck and Gemini telescopes stole the thunder of Hubble scientists announcing the first picture of an extrasolar world orbiting a star. Hubble scientists announced today that they were able to discover an extrasolar world for the first time by taking an actual image of the newly discovered exoplanet orbiting Fomalhaut — previous discoveries have always been made by detecting changes in the parent star's movement, or by watching the planet momentarily eclipse the star — not by detecting them in images. Hubble's time to shine was overshadowed though by the Keck and Gemini observatories announcing that they had taken pictures of not just one planet, but an entire alien solar system. The images show multiple planets orbiting the star HR 8799 — 3 have been imaged so far."
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Hubble's Exoplanet Pics Outshined by Keck's

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  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:35PM (#25752087) Homepage
    A planet orbiting Fomalhaut? Well, it seems Gene Wolfe was prescient in his work The Book of the New Sun [amazon.com] when one of his characters contacts a wise civilization there on, as Wolfe uses the Arabic name, "the Fishes' Mouth".
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FiloEleven (602040)

      I did'nt catch that reference while reading New Sun - good eye. I was thinking of mentioning Fomalhaut system's role in the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, even though it's just a minor setting IIRC. Then I was going to tell people to check out the series because it's a fine one, but since you've mentioned The Book Of The New Sun, I'm just going to shut up and hope that more folks put it at the top of their reading lists, and then insert it again halfway down to catch what they missed before.

      • by Number14 (168707)

        The Book of the New Sun is one of those very few stories that I finished and then immediately turned back to page 1 to reread to see what I had missed. Genius.

        Of course, the Hyperion Cantos is also a favorite, so people should go read both!

  • Amazing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mfh (56)

    This is exhilarating news, that we are most likely not alone in the universe (and beyond). Our solar system is not unique!!

    This whole galactic mess has some more meaning, today. We are like infants, opening our eyes for the first time -- how far we have to go (if we don't destroy ourselves soon).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      We already knew there were planets orbiting other stars.
    • by dedazo (737510)

      We hardly needed these to tell us there are other solar systems with planets in them. I mean they're nice and probably good for creationists or whatever, but other non-visual data proved a long time ago that our star-planet orbit configuration is far from unique.

    • by jfengel (409917)

      Take a deep breath. The discovery of exoplanets isn't news. Even taking pictures of them isn't news.

      It's news that we're finding them on stars kinda like our own, but these aren't earth-style planets.

      So, it's pretty interesting, but you can push "pause" on the CD player with "Also Sprach Zarathustra" queued up.

      • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:21PM (#25752845)

        Taking pictures of them *is* news. In fact, that's the point of these releases. These are the first direct images ever released. Before this, all evidence was indirect (oscillating plots of star brightness as the planet periodically eclipsed the host star, for instance).

        • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MMatessa (673870) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @05:30PM (#25753921)

          These are the first direct images ever released. Before this, all evidence was indirect (oscillating plots of star brightness as the planet periodically eclipsed the host star, for instance).

          Well, except for HD 189733b [wikipedia.org], 2M1207 b [wikipedia.org] and GQ Lup b [space.com].

          • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Informative)

            by Trapezium Artist (919330) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @06:01PM (#25754321)

            HD189733b: not directly imaged, but has had a temperature map of it reconstructed from very careful analysis of the change in the light from the parent star as the planet transits in front of and behind it.

            2M1207b: this orbits a brown dwarf, not a star.

            GQ Lup b: not a planet by any reasonable stretch of the scientific imagination, unless you happen to have been a co-author of the original paper. Believe me: this one is dead, Jim, and was known by most of us to be so on arrival.

      • these aren't earth-style planets.

        The reason we're able to see them is because of that fact - these are young planets. Still hot. We're photographing them in the near-infrared. Once they cool down (and become possible earth candidates) we won't be able to see them with current techniques.

        But! We can see them now. Now it's a known skill, not a theoretical. From here on out it's refinement of that skill. Trying to see colder and colder planets. Getting better estimates of mass, rotation and compos

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      planets != habitable != life != intelligent life

      Hell there is no reason to assume that intelligence is even the natural outcome of evolution, it didn't work during the era of the dinosaurs. When you take into account so many unknown factors, the existence of planets that we already knew would exist hardly makes it likely that we are not alone in the AU (we are ofcourse not alone in the universe, but what does it matter if we can never make contact with them). How many species are there in the AU well Drake

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)

        Intelligence isn't a binary, yes-or-no trait. Dinosaurs were intelligent, just like lizards and birds and cats. They weren't very intelligent compared to us, but compared to an amoeba they certainly were. While you're sitting there thinking that you're so intelligent, there's probably some super-advanced alien race observing us, the way we observe mice or ants, and laughing at us for thinking we're intelligent.

        Because of our limited technology for detecting exoplanets, the only ones discovered so far are

      • by eleuthero (812560)
        As I recall, it did work with the dinosaurs, and then they left in giant starships and created a religion that made heresy of the "great migration" theory that all their archaeology proposed. It was only after being confronted with the truth that they tried to eat it... err, something along those lines anyway. Star Trek is great fun sometimes.
        • And they did so without leaving any traces of any technology, primitive or advanced, on the entire planet - god, I hated that episode.
    • "Our solar system is not unique!!"

      Actually, from current observations [bbc.co.uk], it is -especially when it comes to punctuation.
  • The Author (Score:5, Informative)

    by cuby (832037) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:39PM (#25752175)
    Hello,
    I think the discovery was made by the team led by Paul Kalas:
    http://astro.berkeley.edu/~kalas/index.html [berkeley.edu]
    • by dtolman (688781)
      You are correct. I pretty much guessed what the gist of the announcement would be, thanks to his presence in the pre-announcement last week . After all - his big extrasolar claim to fame is figuring out that the dust ring at that star had a sharp inner edge that had to be caused by a planet.
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:40PM (#25752187)
    that's not a planet...
  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:42PM (#25752223) Homepage
    This came out after I posted the article... Hubble presents - Fomalhaut B [nasa.gov]! This graphic [nasa.gov] is particularly nice!
  • by Scutter (18425) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:44PM (#25752271) Journal

    I wanna live on the left dot.

  • by avandesande (143899) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:50PM (#25752375) Journal

    Alien vs Predator made even more sense than the comparison in the headline...

  • So planets look a lot like noise. They really aren't all that much different than the expected noise levels on the images. Especially on the first one from Fomalhaut.

  • This ain't no solar system... it's the all seeing Eye of Sauron! Creepy.

  • Speck and Gemini telescopes stole the thunder of Hubble scientists announcing the first picture of an extrasolar world orbiting a star.

    Seriously though, it is a shame that this will not get wider news coverage. Slashdot has had some interesting articles in the past few days, first the 11,000 temple and now this. This is slashdot after all, let us not dwell on the cosmic or profound. Queue the speck puns in 3... 2... 1...

  • by need4mospd (1146215) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:07PM (#25752629)
    they are massive, young, hot planets that are probably mostly gaseous and completely inhospitable. They'd get along great with my ex!
  • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:10PM (#25752661)

    In the hubble picture, does anyone else see the shadow of the Enterprise?

  • "Computer, Zoom in"

  • by G3CK0 (708703) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:33PM (#25753033)
    On Thursday 13th November 2008, Gemini Observatory in coordination with several institutions released the first images of an exo multi-planet system around star HR 8799 in the constellation of Pegasus. The discovery was made at Gemini North using the adaptive optics system ALTAIR and NIRI as the infrared imager on October 17, 2007. Follow up and confirming observations were made on the Keck II Telescope and Gemini North. Adaptive optics played a crucial role in obtaining these historic images of a young extra-solar multiple-planet system. The estimated age of the system implies planetary masses between 5 and 13 times that of Jupiter. These giant planets orbit at roughly 25, 40 and 70 times the Earth-Sun separation around their host star which is about 128 light-years from our sun. For more details see www.gemini.edu [gemini.edu].
  • I was an astrophysics major in college for about 2 years but gave up on it because it seemed so speculative. To infer the existence of a planet around a star from the 'wobble' we see in the position or spectrum of the star may be sound science but it hardly grabs the imagination.

    THIS, on the other hand is truly awesome. Seeing is believing I guess. Unless some kid is dicking around with Photoshop -- or more likely GIMP.

    • by eabrek (880144)
      I'm sure there is a lot of processing/filtering required to make these images, but still! Very cool!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918)

      To infer the existence of a planet around a star from the 'wobble' we see in the position or spectrum of the star may be sound science but it hardly grabs the imagination.

      Funny thing is, it grabs *my* imagination! To see something, we have been doing this since eyes evolved on animals. But to perform careful calculations and realize that the results imply the existence of a planet, well, that's what I call awesome.

  • overshadowed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MLCT (1148749) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:41PM (#25753179)
    Not entirely sure why the summary touches on one being overshadowed by the other.

    On the contrary, the two works are complimentary, and it is thus no coincidence that they have been released at the same time. Hubble shows an old cold planet on the edge of a solar system, while Keck shows some very young hot infra-red emitting planets close to their star. The two discoveries help elucidate the workings of other solar systems - and each is just as valuable as the other.
    • by dtolman (688781)
      How about the fact that the Keck/Gemini team just happened to release the news a few hours before a press conference by the Hubble team. A press conference that was announced a week ago. They could have waited until tomorrow. Or next week. Looked to me like they figured out that Hubble had a similar announcement, and tried to beat them to the punch.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Not entirely sure why the summary touches on one being overshadowed by the other...the two works are complimentary...Hubble shows an old cold planet on the edge of a solar system, while Keck shows some very young hot infra-red emitting planets close to their star.

      More specifically, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. The infrared image shows the planets because they are still glowing bright in infrared because they were very recently formed, and thus "hot out of the oven". The article sa

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        See my post elsewhere in this thread, but this isn't true: if you read the Fomalhaut paper (as opposed to the PR), they're unsure quite what mix of reflected starlight, thermal self-emission, and additional reflected light from a circumplanetary disk makes up the light seen from Fomalhaut b, at both visible and IR wavelengths.

        These objects are actually more similar than they are different, in my opinion.

        As for HST still being king, well, yes and no: depends on what you're after. Ground-based AO has c

        • by Tablizer (95088)

          if you read the Fomalhaut paper (as opposed to the PR), they're unsure quite what mix of reflected starlight, thermal self-emission, and additional reflected light from a circumplanetary disk makes up the light seen from Fomalhaut b, at both visible and IR wavelengths. These objects are actually more similar than they are different, in my opinion.

          The referenced article says this: "Fomalhaut b, in the Hubble image, is much older (200 million years) [implying cooler], and glows only by reflected light from F

        • by tyrione (134248)

          See my post elsewhere in this thread, but this isn't true: if you read the Fomalhaut paper (as opposed to the PR), they're unsure quite what mix of reflected starlight, thermal self-emission, and additional reflected light from a circumplanetary disk makes up the light seen from Fomalhaut b, at both visible and IR wavelengths.

          These objects are actually more similar than they are different, in my opinion.

          As for HST still being king, well, yes and no: depends on what you're after. Ground-based AO has caught up and exceeded HST in some domains already, while HST still wins in others. Ultimately we need ground- and space-based telescopes to get the most complete view: today it's HST and the 8-10m telescopes, tomorrow it's JWST and the 30-40m extremely large telescopes.

          I somehow imagine that if they replaced Hubble with a current cousin in technological advances the King's cousin would reign supreme, across all fields of imagery.

          Too bad we had to put so much into Iraq when just one month of cost could do wonders for earth orbiting telescopic research.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        (Although processing tricks to counter the atmosphere "wiggle" for Earth scopes are making incremental improvements and may catch up someday.)

        I'm unclear of what you mean by "processing tricks". Describing adaptive optics (AO) as "processing tricks" is strange - a better description would be "getting a better mirror". The AO systems that I've seen details of work by manipulating a mirror in the light path so that a near-axis guide star (natural or artificial) maintains as small an image as possible ; since

  • Nice pictures. That looks like an excellent spot for a hyperspace express bypass.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "pictures of not just one planet, but an entire alien solar system"

    Isn't there just 1 Solar system? The one with the star Sol. All the rest are just planetary systems.

  • Wouldn't it be harder to take a photo of a single planet than an entire solar system? And if so, then the Hubble team's accomplishment still means a lot more.

  • You know, I bet if we follow THESE planets, we can't help but reach Planet X!

    I don't know how you do it Dodgers.

  • Redo (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    Nifliik blinked, please retake it.

  • I really love these discoveries, because it means someday a game like Spore or Elite will have the actual stars, with the actual planets, with the actual atmospheres. These planets will all be named, etc. etc.

    When I was playing Elite/Frontier years ago, I (and I believe scientist too) weren't even 100% sure extra-solar planets existed.

  • "outshone" rather than "outshined" which does not yet exist even in Wesbsterland.
  • by RockDoctor (15477) on Friday November 14, 2008 @04:23AM (#25758431) Journal
    Go to the exoplanets.EU site ; follow the news links to publications about HR 8799 [exoplanet.eu] and also see Science [sciencemag.org] for the abstract on Formalhaut (if you're working through a location which pays for access to Science, which I'm not, you should be able to get the paper from there ; there's also Supporting Online Material available, which isn't terribly informative. Now, contrary to SlashDot procedure, I'm going to shut my flap while I RTF-Papers. Shocking, isn't it?

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