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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 @01:01PM (#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.

      • Most of the times, I get disinterested reading comments beyond a point if the first few are off topic or just plain silly. In fact, I knew that the story was not as what the title suggested (essentially what Phil is talking about), but I did not bother posting it only for it to get buried.
  • This is /. (Score:5, Funny)

    by sribe (304414) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @12:52PM (#32747780)

    ...but don't be misled by hyperbolic headlines.

    Uhm yeah, we're pretty much at the wrong site for that advice...

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      Actually, isn't Slashdot the perfect place for such a warning? You put "Watch for crossing deer" signs near places where deer cross frequently, not where it seldom happens! ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sribe (304414)

        Actually, isn't Slashdot the perfect place for such a warning? You put "Watch for crossing deer" signs near places where deer cross frequently, not where it seldom happens!

        Good point. I cede to you superior word skills ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Don't be misled by hyperbolic headlines."

    Unless it's on /.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      something Soviet something something, something something exoplanet headlines something something you!
  • by PurpleCarrot (892888) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @12:55PM (#32747822) Homepage
    Waiting for the first photograph of an exoplanet from an underwater observatory. And you though atmospheric refraction was a pain on land!
  • An anonymous reader noted a report confirming the first ever exoplanet actually photographed from telescopes on earth. If you still don't know how to read into the media's game of provacative article titles I truly pity you.
  • For me to go to the original story, post this summary and get a +5 insightful?

  • Exoplanet Reports Exaggerated

    Well yeaaahh - did you see the original picture? Glad that got cleared up :)

    That being said, it did provide some great amusement value too: image [adbus.com.ua]

  • Thanks Slashdot! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @01:02PM (#32747924)
    Thank you Slashdot, for letting us know that all those other sites that were exagerating the importance with hyperbolic headlines [slashdot.org] were totally doin it rong!

    (To be fair it's usually considered a sign of maturity to be able to admit that you made a mistake after the fact, but just i couldn't resist the dig. Guess i'm not mature enough.)
  • I wonder if /. editors realize that they could post a follow-up "nothing to see here" clarification for 99% of all news. In fact, I think they should start doing so. THIS JUST IN!!!ohwaitnevermind.
  • Okay, I'll try not to get too excited about A PHOTOGRAPH OF ANoTHER FRICKIN' PLaNET OUT IN SPACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
  • 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. P

    • The above response was triggered by the summary, not by the article itself which is pretty good.

      Yeah, yet another bogus Slashdot headline.

      --
      BMO

      • The above response was triggered by the summary, not by the article itself which is pretty good.

        Yeah, yet another bogus Slashdot headline.

        Make up your mind. Are you talking about the summary or the headline?

        Your first post makes sense if you just read the headline and jumped to conclusions about what the alleged exaggeration was.

        But the summary exactly spells out what is exaggerated: The claim that this was the first exoplanet directly imaged. It is not. It is the first exoplanet around a sun-like star

        • by bmo (77928)

          I plead lack of coffee.

          Must have some.

          --
          BMO

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Chris Burke (6130)

            I'll forgive you then, since after all if I was on the jury for your murder trial I'd let you off with the "lack of coffee defense".

    • by euxneks (516538)

      And if you want to get it from the horse's mouth these days, you can now more than ever.

      You mean: http://horsesmouth.typepad.com/ [typepad.com]

      I fail to see how a blog about water sports is relevant?? ;)

    • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @01:51PM (#32748558) Homepage

      Wow, you didn't even read the summary above, did you? The summary pretty nicely explains what's been done and what's new here, even without reading the linked piece Phil wrote. It really doesn't take much effort in this case.

      Also: insulting Phil Plait's ability to get to the real source and read it makes you look like a fool. Phil is a PhD'ed astronomer and one of the most active and followed astronomy popularizers in the field today. Telling him to go to S&T or Astronomy is insulting.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Also: insulting Phil Plait's ability to get to the real source and read it makes you look like a fool. Phil is a PhD'ed astronomer and one of the most active and followed astronomy popularizers in the field today. Telling him to go to S&T or Astronomy is insulting.

        Yeah, it's doubly silly because Phil wrote both the article which the OP praises, and the submission which the OP insults.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Well, it's not insulting. I've written for both magazines! :) However, my source was the news release from Gemini, as well as a few previous articles I had written on this topic as well as this particular object.
        • I figured it was insulting in that you were certainly aware of both magazines, not that they're not worthy. :-)

    • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @01:58PM (#32748668)

      Please mod this down. I don't know what I was thinking.

      --
      BMO

    • by canajin56 (660655)

      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.

      Nobody said different.

      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.

      Nobody said different.

      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.

      Nobody said anything about the images being low resolution, and thus, not as cool as the headline made them sound. Except you, I mean.

      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.

      Nobody said this. Honestly, what on Earth were you reading? You have nice points if ANYBODY at all was saying that there are no such things as exoplanets because inference is invalid, or if anybody said this direct image wasn't convincing because it's so small. Nobody said that, so you're just complaining about your fictional st

    • Well, the link first posted by /., to an article on space.com, called this the first ever direct image of an exoplanet. That is factually incorrect, so it's not really the tabloids or Fox.
  • That's OK, I make it a point to only listen to parabolic headlines, with just a touch of linearity.
  • They aren't in my book so they don't exist.
  • by calderra (1034658)
    Slashdot can now make a new headline about how poory researched a previous headline was?
  • by superluminique (1567063) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:33PM (#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...
    • 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.

      2004, according to Phil. And unless he's deliberately being misleading, they were in fact looking for the planet:

      OK, but a planet already has been directly imaged orbiting the star Fomalhaut. That star is hotter and more massive than the Sun, but is far more sun-like than a brown dwarf. The first image of the planet Fomalhaut b was taken in 2004 using Hubble Space Telescope, and the second confirming image in 2006. It took two more years to make sure everything was correct, and the news announced in 2008. So while this was announced after the image of 1RXS 1609b was first taken in 2008, the first image of Fomalhaut b was taken in 2004, four years earlier.

      (I, for one, can recall people identifying locations where a planet ought to be in that disk as early as Fall 2002. So it's credible to me that they'd be looking with HST in 2004.)

      Granted, they didn't announce it right away. But, then, that's also the basis for you claim for priority of 1RXS 1609, so it seems like Phil is still right.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Good point CheshireCatCO and I got stressed about talking too fast so I went and read the actual papers.

        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.

        2004, according to Phil. And unless he's deliberately being misleading, they were in fact looking for the planet:

        The 2004 actually refers to a 2005 Nature paper ( A planetary system as the origin of structure in Fomalhaut's dust belt [harvard.edu]), presenting the modelling of the debris disk which strongly suggests that a planet has to be there. There is no mention of any candidate point source in the image.

        (I, for one, can recall people identifying locations where a planet ought to be in that disk as early as Fall 2002. So it's credible to me that they'd be looking with HST in 2004.)

        Granted, they didn't announce it right away. But, then, that's also the basis for you claim for priority of 1RXS 1609, so it seems like Phil is still right.

        Of course,

        • First of all, you're changing the argument. You never said "boo" about published papers before, just when the observations were made/analyzed. And correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the first publication of the 1RXS 1609 result? (Actually, it doesn't even appear to be published yet.) If so, aren't you still wrong?

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            Sorry, I forgot to include the link to the 1RXS 1609 papers: the original "discovery" paper [harvard.edu] and the "confirmation" paper [harvard.edu]. So to answer your question, no this isn't the first publication about 1RXS 1609, the 2008 one did announce the discovery. And I don't think I'm changing my argument. Not sure exactly what the "boo" about published papers means but in my first post, when I talk about discoveries and findings I implicity (sorry if I didn't make it clear) refer to literature. Here, the point is simply that

            • So the original paper on 1RXS 1609 is from December 2008... the end of the same year that the original paper on Fomalhaut was published? (So a month later, according to your links.)

              I'm sorry, I'm just seriously confused as to why you say Phil is wrong. What am I missing?

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                The actual printed publication of 1RXS 1609 came out after that of Formalhaut but the results came up earlier. The reason being that Science and Nature (Formalhaut's was published in Science) have a much quicker turn around from the time the paper is initially submitted to the point where it comes out of press (it depends but it can be something like a month), whereas more specialized journals like the Astrophysical Journal in which 1RXS 1609's was published are extremely long (several months). Of course, n
  • "Directly imaged"? IDTX (I Don't Think Xo). Not unless you consider any Kim Kardashian photo you've ever seen to be "directly imaged".

    As for planetary status--they even got Pluto wrong FFS... and that's just an endo-whatever.
  • I'm upset to find that the coding system uses letters, and starts with 'b', eg 51 Pegasi b. I wanted them to use the numeric science fiction system where planets have codes like 'Sol 3' or 'Vega VIII'.
    • I also wish we had nice names like in sci-fi movies. One of the problems is that most of the stars are designated by a number, like HD 2135 (for the stars from the Henry Draper catalog) or KIC 321 (for stars of the Kepler Input Catalog; Kepler being a satellite search transiting planets). There are also stars designated by their coordinates in the sky J1324-4355. For this reason, adding numbers at the end would make it confusing and letters are more appropriate.
  • To be specific: this new planet is the first to be directly imaged orbiting a sun-like star using observations made from the ground.

    Up Next: new planet photographed before it's discovered by conjoined twins who are blind since birth, standing on a soap box eating fruits while reciting the alphabet backwards. Stoned.
    Tagline: "We would've announced it sooner, but my twin was away on a business trip in Bermuda, the triangley part."

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