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First Direct Photo of Exoplanet Confirmed 189

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the say-cheese-guys dept.
An anonymous reader noted a report confirming the first ever exoplanet actually photographed from telescopes on earth. Every other exoplanet so far 'observed' has been done by measuring wobbles of stars pulled by planetary gravity. But this one is a photograph. And that's just plain cool.
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First Direct Photo of Exoplanet Confirmed

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:00AM (#32743076) Homepage

    Damn, I love living in the future.

    • by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:02AM (#32743110) Homepage
      But you wrote that comment in the past!
    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:22AM (#32743332) Journal

      And I hate living in a pre-warp culture. Come on scientists. Invent a warp drive so instead of taking blurry images, we can send a camera to that distant planet and take a photo directly.

      I don't know. Maybe this is why aliens have never contacted us? Maybe they are stuck inside their local solar system, same as we are, and the distance between stars is just too big a hurdle to jump. I once read a Science story about humans that hopped on a giant ship and accelerated to llghtspeed to visit a star with an earthlike planet. The humans inboard only aged two years, but 150 years passed-away back home..... whole countries rose and fell during that timespan. Totally impractical way to explore.

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        Agreed. Something like Warp from Star Trek or the Gravity Drive from Event Horizon (minus the hellish torture...or not, some people might dig that) are likely the only ways we will be able to explore beyond our solar system in a reasonable amount of time.

        Or, we could just all play the "space age" in Spore at the same time :p

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheKidWho (705796)

        It's only impractical now while our world is developing.

        Who knows how long people will live for in the future? If we could all live to say 500 years old, then space travel would be much easier on us.

        • Or like in the Asimov novel Robots of Dawn, maybe long-lived humans will become so afraid of death & disease that they will stop exploring completely. In that Science story the humans are born, live, and die in their homes.

          • by TheKidWho (705796)

            Yeah, doesn't sound very different from some people today who would abandon our entire manned space program because it's too dangerous.

        • by pha7boy (1242512)
          even if we all live 1000 years, getting to that planet will be incredibly long and boring.
          • even if we all live 1000 years, getting to that planet will be incredibly long and boring.

            Not necessarily if you are the one doing the travelling. In that case the trip can be arbitrarily short.

        • Much easier on us? You want to do a 440-year round-trip across the galaxy when you're 60+? Good luck with that.

      • by chichilalescu (1647065) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:36AM (#32743472) Homepage Journal
        as a PhD student in physics, the interstellar travel mechanism closest to being theoretically possible that I've seen so far is the Infinite Improbability Drive [wikipedia.org].
        • In particle physics there are experiments which seem to prove faster-than-light communication is possible. So it might take 150 years to reach a star, but the camera could beam back the video instantly.

          • by pha7boy (1242512)
            footnote missing. comment will be deleted.
          • Ummmm.... no there aren't. No experiment has ever shown that information can be transmitted faster than light or even hinted at it. you might be thinking of quantum entanglement. This commonly gets translated as "faster than light communication", but this is not accurate.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            In particle physics there are experiments which seem to prove faster-than-light communication is possible.

            No there aren't.

            There are experiments which seem to demonstrate that things can appear to happen faster than light if and only if no information whatsoever is transmitted.

            The correlation between the collapsed states of entangled particles is such a case. You can interpret the result as meaning that one particle somehow told the other about its' post-collapse state "instantly", but this can't tell you a

          • About the only thing certain about those entanglement experiments is that there are no hidden local variables, so we know there is some sort of link between entangled particles that seems to work in spooky FTL ways. But no actual controllable information has been transferred FTL. Sure, quantum states of particles may have been, but we don't get to choose those without breaking the link, so it's useless as a communication medium. There's some ideas out there that MAY be able to exploit the statistical natur
          • In particle physics there are experiments which seem to prove faster-than-light communication is possible.

            No there are not. There is no experimental evidence whatsoever that FTL communication is possible.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          You might want to check out some of the advantages of using thiotimoline [wikipedia.org] as a fuel.

        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          In an infinite university, all courses are possible?

        • The best feature about the IID is that is only has to be a little bit possible in order to be inevitable.

      • by paiute (550198)

        I once read a Science story about humans that hopped on a giant ship and accelerated to llghtspeed to visit a star with an earthlike planet. The humans inboard only aged two years, but 150 years passed-away back home..... whole countries rose and fell during that timespan. Totally impractical way to explore.

        I have never heard of such a thing. Do you have a link?

      • by gsslay (807818)

        whole countries rose and fell during that timespan

        Well that's your problem there. A primitive planet that is divided into "countries" that are pitted against each others and so "rise and fall" in relation to one another. That's a lot of wasted effort and pathetically parochial in the context of inter-planetary exploration.

        Should we ever get beyond this maybe 150 years wouldn't matter so much.

      • by saider (177166)

        Totally impractical way to explore

        That is because people's expectations are based on Star Trek, which was basically "Wagon Train to the Stars". Writers invented Warp engines so that the plot could follow a familiar theme ( "Space Boat" ) that was easy for the audience to relate to.

        If we want to explore the stars, then we need to change our expectations and get ready for some seriously long voyages.

      • I don't know. Maybe this is why aliens have never contacted us?

        Actually, they have contacted us. Unfortunately, they landed in Arizona and were immediately deported.

    • But that photo is from the past...
  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:03AM (#32743120)

    The key word in the title is "confirmed." Readers may remember that there were 2 separate sets of planets photographed in papers published in 2008. Now, we are sure (not that there was much doubt) that one of them is truly orbiting its primary star.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:33AM (#32743446) Homepage

      Well, if you want to get technically correct - the best kind of correct - then the title should be "First Confirmation of Direct Photo of Alien Planet", not "First Direct Photo of Alien Planet Finally Confirmed", since it most certainly is not the first direct photograph of an alien planet.

      We photographed many, many alien planets before this one: every time anyone pointed a camera at the sky, in fact. We've just not spotted any planets in those other images (yet).

      • We just need to use the good old CSI zoom and enhance! We'll find many more!

        • All camera's get 1billion mega-pixel just police get access to the majority of it, regular users only get the degraded 3megapixel versions. Duhhh. I don't know why people find CSI hard to follow.
          • by RobDude (1123541)

            But they use a super-edition of WinZip (apparently, if you actually pay for it, it becomes about a million times better at compressing things - but only the US government bothered to find out).

            So the billion megapixels take up, roughly, the same size as a crappy cell phone pic.

            It's amazing.

        • by sorak (246725) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:45AM (#32744490)

          We just need to use the good old CSI zoom and enhance! We'll find many more!

          But won't they all be covered in semen and blood stains?

      • by mbone (558574)

        We photographed many, many alien planets before this one: every time anyone pointed a camera at the sky, in fact. We've just not spotted any planets in those other images (yet).

        Maybe (in a handful of all of the millions of images taken of astronomical objects), but I would doubt it. Exo-Planetary imagery is tough and is generally done of new systems in the IR (young planets are hot, and thus glow brighter). If by "photographed" you mean "an image with at least one pixel that could be recognized as an exo-pl

  • by elrous0 (869638) *
    The ones in our solar system were getting so lame.
  • This makes me happy in a way I find very difficult to describe.

  • Adaptic optics FTW (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OneAhead (1495535) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:06AM (#32743156)

    I see this as a big triumph of adaptic optics. This picture was not made by a space telescope, but by an earth-based one!

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:10AM (#32743196) Journal

      I see this as a big triumph of adaptic optics. This picture was not made by a space telescope, but by an earth-based one!

      Indeed, hope the liquid mirror option becomes practical and viable [slashdot.org] so we can achieve more amazing photographs and data like this. Although I have to wonder why they didn't use an orbiting satellite like Hubble to avoid Earth's atmosphere when photographing such an amazing thing. Have terrestrial adaptive optic solutions already caught up with orbiting satellites?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437)

        IIRC, Hubble's mirror, despite not having to deal with atmospheric conditions, is much smaller than that of many terrestrial observatories. As such if you can apply adaptive optics techniques, you still have more usable light on the ground based telescopes.

        I personally just say we take the best of both worlds - I want a lunar based observatory with a 25 meter aperture. No need for adaptive optics, and FAR more light gathering capability than our current telescopes. We'll figure out how to pay for it late

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          I personally just say we take the best of both worlds - I want a lunar based observatory with a 25 meter aperture. No need for adaptive optics, and FAR more light gathering capability than our current telescopes. We'll figure out how to pay for it later :)

          Use a design like the Hobbey-Eberly [wikipedia.org] or Keck [wikipedia.org] scopes, constructing a very large mirror out of many smaller hexagonal pieces. Launch the hexes and components of the support structure individually into earth orbit, dock and refuel the rockets at the convenie

        • by drerwk (695572)
          I think you need to consider integrated light gathering time. If Hubble is looking at something towards the poles, it can remain fixed on the target for days, the Hubble Deep Field exposure was 11 days long. For most terrestrial scopes you have maybe 6 hours of exposure. Hubble 2.4 meter mirror: Gemini has an 8.1 meter mirror. My naive estimate is (2.4)^2/(8.1)^2 = 0.08. So would have to spend 10x the observing time. And this assumes Hubble has the requisite insturments.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by rwllama (587787)
      Adaptive optics works great at infrared wavelengths. It does not (yet) do well at visible wavelengths. Even the 2.5 meter mirror of Hubble has better resolution at visible wavelengths than the 10 meter Keck mirror due to atmospheric blurring. Further, adaptive optics is only effective over small fields of view (such as a single star and planet). One can not take a wide field view of a nebula or a galaxy and get a high resolution adaptive optics view over the whole field.
      • I don't have an argument against the wavelength limitations, but this photo [space.com] shows what adaptive optics can do over a somewhat wide field. Ground-based telescopes also enjoy the benefit of being much, much easier to repair and/or upgrade.

        Besides, isn't it going to be ultimately more beneficial to be able to image "small" fields, such as individual solar systems or planets? Not that we have to choose, we've got both ground-based and orbiting telescopes, and that's a good thing.
  • It must be filled with sunflower people.
  • But that's just because Bigfoot and Elvis are visible in the corner.
  • Finally, an extraterrestrial revelation Mulder and Scully can agree on.

  • Pluto (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ukab the Great (87152) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:19AM (#32743304)

    There's an irony in that we can now see extrasolar planets but we still can't get a really decent the smallest (dwarf)planet in our solar system.

  • If there is a (probably) gas giant that far out I wonder what the likehood is of any smaller planets inside that planet's orbit(?)
    • by Bruha (412869)

      We'll the problem becomes that that planet which could possibly be just a brown dwarf which I've seen estimates have to be 8-10 the mass of Jupiter. It's 300 AU from it's parent star which means that star must be massive or we have a picture of a brown dwarf. What I'd like to see is it's orbit, and if it's orbiting based on their masses would it be possible for planet formations in the middle or is there a debris field between them because their gravity wells prevent what's left to condense into planets.

      W

  • by rwllama (587787) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:40AM (#32743536)
    There are several direct images of exoplanets available. Hubble took one of a planet around Fomalhaut, which was announced the same day that Keck announced three planets around HR 8799 (Nov 13, 2008). The next week, ESO announced a possible planet around Beta Pictoris, which has recently been confirmed. What these folks at Gemini are saying is that they announced a possible direct image earlier in 2008, which they have now confirmed, so theirs was really the first. It is a game of "who got the first direct image of a planet around another star?". It doesn't really matter, but it is very cool that we can now directly see not only the 8 planets in our solar system, but also at least 6 more in other solar systems. At some pivotal point in the near future we will have more pictures of planets outside our solar system than within it!
    • by demonbug (309515)

      At some pivotal point in the near future we will have more pictures of planets outside our solar system than within it!

      I doubt it. There are an awful lot of people taking pictures of (portions) of the Earth.

      Or did you mean pictures of more planets outside our solar system than within?

  • by joeyblades (785896) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:07AM (#32743904)

    > first ever alien planet actually photographed...

    Well, technically this is not the first alien planet photographed. That honor would probably go to Venus. However, this is the first exoplanet ever photographed, but it's old news since the first photographs of Fomalhaut's planet were taken in 2008...

    Slow news day or something???

  • by io333 (574963) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:13AM (#32743972)

    I've been wondering for twenty years at least: how big a telescope do we need to build, in space, or on the dark side of the moon, or even on earth, to see cities on an earthlike planet somewhere out there?

    And why are we not building one instead of wasting all the money on welfare, manned space exploration of a our mostly dead solar system, and more missiles so we can blow this place earth up even more times than we already can (I think we destroy the earth up to 6 times now?)

    The main problem with our space program is that for 100 years we've been stuck with the rocket equation and 2% at best payloads. Ion engines give a little more hope for an interstellar probe someday...

    If we found some more living earths out there, maybe our best and brightest might expend their brainpower on coming up with a better engine for space travel, rather than investment banking and law.

    So how big a telescope do we need? Let's start building it!

    • I think just to be able to see footprints on the moon left by the astronauts you would need a lens about 1800 feet in diameter. I'm sure someone smarter than me can give a better answer, but the gist is that you would need one huge fucking telescope to see cities on a planet outside of our solar system. Bigger than we could probably ever build.

      Maybe an array of large telescopes, but I think you're still asking a lot.

    • by waveclaw (43274)
      Why build when you can visit? As any relativistic physicist would note, the largest lens in the Solar system is the sun [daviddarling.info]
    • by MobyDisk (75490) *

      I have always wondered this myself, but I guesstimate that it would require a lens the size of the Earth. Or the Sun. Or something impossible like that.

      The problem is that you can't get details from long exposures. These far-off objects require exposures that are hours long [physicsworld.com]. Imagine taking a 5-hour long exposure of a soccer game: all the players would be blurred. Now imagine that the players are running at the speed of a planet: upwards of 65,000 miles per hour [wolframalpha.com]. That is going to be one heck of a blurr

    • Formula for maximum resolution of a lens:
      sin(theta) = 1.22 (wavelength / diameter of lens aperture)

      Moving things around we get:
      1.22 * wavelength / sin(theta) = diameter

      1.22 * wavelength / sin(tan^-1(resolution length / distance to object))

      With a wavelength of 500 nanometers (visible light), a resolution of a kilometer (might be enough to see that there's something interesting there), at a distance of 20 light years (the nearest known extrasolar planet is 10.4 light years, so let's be generous and
      • by io333 (574963)

        Oh wow. Thanks to all of you for all of the calculations. I see the problem now.

  • Why bother (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:51AM (#32744598)

    When I went to click on this link, I told myself "This better not just be another glowing dot". As usual, I was severely disappointed.

    Also, 500 Light Years?

    So even if we achieve FTL travel it's gonna be 40 lifetimes before we get there, not including the time to send any information back? This is where potential space travel funding is going?

    Very sad.

    • Agreed. And when I clicked on the link, I expected to see a *planet*. What I got was ...

      A planet outside of our solar system, said to be the first ever directly photographed by telescopes on Earth, has been officially confirmed to be orbiting a sun-like star, according to follow-up observations.

      The alien planet is eight times the mass of Jupiter and orbits at an unusually great distance from its host star -- more than 300 times farther from the star than our Earth is from the sun. ... The planet has an estimated temperature of over 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit

      Um, we already have a name for a massive sun-like star ... it's called a star. The fact that orbits another star doesn't make it somehow a planet. Am I missing something here?

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Yes you are. It isn't a star because 8 times the mass of jupiter is not sufficient for sustainable fusion. It isn't even really in the size range for unsustainable fusion believed to occure during the formation of brown dwarves in the 13-80 jupiter range.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        What are you talking about? The planet, which is 8 Jupiter masses and nothing like a star, is orbiting a sun-like star.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      When I went to click on this link, I told myself "This better not just be another glowing dot". As usual, I was severely disappointed.

      Sorry, but expect to be disappointed for a very, very long time.

      This is where potential space travel funding is going?

      No? It's where telescope funding is going.

      Very sad.

      Yeah, it's very sad to learn more about the universe, to be able to study other solar systems besides our own, to discover what kinds there are and how they form.

      That's sad... in opposite world. Or lack-of-i

  • FTA:

    "This difference, however, will be "very small," said the study's co-author Marten van Kerkwijk of the University of Toronto, since the fastest possible orbital period is more than one thousand years.

    If the period of rotation for two bodies is T = 2 * pi * (((length of semi-major axis)^3)/(G * (M1+M2))), then the time works out to be 5615 years and change [wolframalpha.com]. Anyone know why they're low balling the estimate so much?

  • Paraphrase Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts -
    Whether they ever find life there or not, I think 1RXS 1609 should be considered an enemy planet.
  • OK folks, this submission is pretty misleading about a lot of stuff. Here's the real poop (get the details on my blog [discovermagazine.com]):

    In 2005, a planet was directly imaged orbiting a brown dwarf. That's not a sun-like star, but it was the first direct image of an exoplanet.

    In 2008, it was announced that Hubble spotted a planet orbiting Fomalhaut. That's a star hotter and more massive than the Sun, but still sun-like. The images were taken in 2004 and 2006 and it took a while to make sure they were right.

    However, those were taken from space. Also in 2008 images were taken of planets orbiting the sun-like star HR8799 using the ground-based Gemini telescope in Hawaii.

    With me so far? The news today is from observations also taken in 2008, also taken by the Gemini 'scope (and a few months before the ones I just mentioned of HR8799). At the time, the planet was not confirmed. New observations indicate it is, in fact, a planet.

    So to be completely accurate: the image from 2008 of a now-confirmed planet was the first direct image of a planet orbiting a sun-like star taken using a ground-based telescope. This is still very cool, but has been reported inaccurately (the space.com headline, for example, is wrong or at best incomplete).

    Also, going back to the submitted text here to slashdot, planets have been found by three methods: the gravitation tug-of-war Doppler method, the transit method, and by gravitational lensing. I'll leave it up to you to look all that up; I'm exhausted. :)

  • Since this is an extremely young star system, is it possible that this planet is on an extremely eccentric orbit, and over the next few years will move much closer to it's star?

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