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Exoplanet Reports Exaggerated 55

Posted by timothy
from the visit-the-off-world-colonies dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "The reports of the first direct picture of an exoplanet are misleading. The real news is that an image of a probable exoplanet taken in 2008 using a telescope in Hawaii have been confirmed — it's a planet. In fact, exoplanets have been directly imaged before; the first was in 2005. More images of other planets were released in 2008. To be specific: this new planet is the first to be directly imaged orbiting a sun-like star using observations made from the ground. That's actually still quite a technological achievement, but don't be misled by hyperbolic headlines."
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Exoplanet Reports Exaggerated

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  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:01PM (#32747914)

    To be fair, if you browse the comments after things have settled down a bit you generally get the corrections long before most other sites get around to posting corrections (if they ever do). There were several comments in the earlier article that were rated up that say... well, basically exactly what this article says.

  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:13PM (#32748116)

    No, the reports are not exaggerated. They exist. They are out there. Whether directly observed with fancy optics or by red shift because of their stars wobbling around their centers of of gravity, they have been detected.

    A star doesn't wobble if there is nothing to pull on it, and that means a mass.

    We have even observed the spectra of some exoplanets to see what their atmospheres are like because they've passed between their star and ours.

    The only exaggerations here are those of peoples' expectations. People want to see at least Voyager quality photographs. Well, it's not happening. Not until we go out there ourselves.

    There is a lot about the universe that we have to measure indirectly because of distance and time scales. It doesn't mean that the methods are bogus. To say that not measuring up to popular expectation means "hurr there really isn't much evidence for exoplanets hurr" is bullshit.

    Stop reading the tabloids. Stop listening to Fox News who will get it wrong deliberately. Sky & Telescope and Astronomy (both SKY publications) are good enough to start with. And if you want to get it from the horse's mouth these days, you can now more than ever.

    --
    BMO

  • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:51PM (#32748562) Homepage Journal

    Ya, it's always "blow up the evil base", "destroy his equipment", etc, etc. Don't they realize it's advantageous to loot the evil base for technology and resources? The badguy always has some spiffy superweapon that borders on physically impossible. ... or is that how Batman gets a spiffy new car in every movie?

        I still want to take the "Tumbler" [wikipedia.org] for a drive.

  • by superluminique (1567063) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:33PM (#32749114)
    I'm an astrophysicist and yes I find that most press releases about astronomy are somewhat exaggerated and have hyperbolic titles (it's probably true for anything about science). The obvious reason for that is to make them more attractive to the lay reader. I guess that something like "Imaging of 1RXS 1609 Companion Using Speckle Subtraction" would make people run away. Of course, there should be a compromise between sensationalism and news but it's not always obvious how to spin things the right way, especially when news writers barely know anything about science (believe me, I've had to deal with explaining relativity to the media).

    Regarding this discovery, I don't agree with Bad Astronomer who seemed to have found a way to bash about "exaggerated scientific news" (as I said I do agree with him on the general statement). The other star that Bad Astronomer claims has been imaged in 1995 is Formalhaut. Yes, there is a point source somewhere in the debris disk around the star that is a planet. The thing is that this planet was only found last year, in a recent Hubble image. Astrophysicists saw it in the recent image and went back to the archives and also identified it in the 1995 archive image.

    The exoplanet of the present discovery, around the star 1RXS 1609, has been found with direct imaging prior to the detection of the one around Formalhaut. I won't get into the details but all evidence were showing that it was an exoplanet orbiting that star. Of course, there is always a small chance of coincidence but the confirmation just came about -- this is what the news is about -- since clear orbital motion is now visible. So, technically, 1RXS 1609b was the first exoplanet to be formally identified using direct imaging, though Formalhaut's exoplanet had been photographed before without people recognizing it. Off course, this whole /. and Bad Astronmer's news is all about nitpicking on words. It's even hard for astrophysicists to unambiguously decide which one should be first. My last sentence would simply be that this /. post title "Exoplanet Reports Exaggerated" is totally hyperbolic and exaggerated since I was sure that it was reporting about something really bad like half the exoplanets are in fact not real or something like that...

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly

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