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First Four-Exoplanet System Imaged 89

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the space-is-really-big dept.
Phoghat writes "Among the first exoplanet systems imaged was HR 8799. In 2008, a team led by Christian Marois at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada took a picture of the system, directly imaging three giant planets."
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First Four-Exoplanet System Imaged

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  • Once the tech process gets better, we can find more Earthlike planets instead of just these big ones. Still, encouraging.

    • by Pojut (1027544)

      Your post and your sig go well together :)

    • Once the tech process gets better, we can find more Earthlike planets instead of just these big ones. Still, encouraging.

      Not that it'll do us much good. We won't be going to any exoplanets for a long, long time.....

      • Well, we won't be arriving there for a long, long time, at least.
      • by pyalot (1197273)
        Capturing direct light from earth sized planets is extremely important. Spectral analysis could reveal free oxygen (which would mean life), environmental pollution (which would mean civilization) etc. Also if they manage to crank the resolution up, way up, we might be able to directly observe the surface structure of said planets (and any anomalies they might contain, like cities, etc.) It sure would be good to at least know you've got neighbors, and perhaps aim some comlink at them, maybe we might learn
        • Seems like it would help the likes of SETI even without those details; we could aim/to from plausible planets rather than aiming randomly through the universe. And we could narrow our aim with more information even if we don't have full information.

          • by Yvanhoe (564877)
            I'm not sure it helps yet. Have we found stars for which we are sure there are no planets around ? The current observations give a lower bound on the probability that a random star has a planet, but no higher bound. If every star has a planetary system, I don't see how it will help...
            • by Kjella (173770)

              I doubt we have that, how difficult it is to detect a planet not only depends on the size but very much on the orbit. But you don't need to exclude anything, just to do better than random sweeps. Even if it turns out planetary systems are very common, we can pick the most earth-like planets in the most earth-like orbits around the most sun-like stars with jupiter-like asteroid cleaners and moon-like satellites and point our antennas there. If we can do things like spectral analysis, detect magnetic fields a

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        Once the tech process gets better, we can find more Earthlike planets instead of just these big ones. Still, encouraging.

        Not that it'll do us much good. We won't be going to any exoplanets for a long, long time.....

        For all anyone knows, we may have already been there.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday December 13, 2010 @11:52AM (#34535466) Journal

    For those who were not able to get in before the Slashdotting, here is a picture in text

    . .

                  O
                        o

        .

  • Quite strange. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday December 13, 2010 @11:54AM (#34535480) Journal
    When Galileo invented the telescope, pointed it to the sky and mapped more stars than anyone before him (or since, he still holds the record for the number of stars cataloged) most people objected saying, "well this tube seems to be showing many interesting things. But what is the guarantee it is showing the real thing? What if it is producing illusions?". Even when pointed to terrestrial objects and showed that it is always showing the real thing, there were doubts. His lenses had terrible spherical aberration and chromatic aberration and had very heavy rainbow fringes on bright objects and things were shown upside down. One could almost forgive the bishops and the cardinals distrusting the instrument, and saying they will believe only things that they can see with their eye.

    Fast forward 400 years, images captured on a charge coupled device producing pixels from light gathered by giant telescopes is considered "direct imaging" and is somehow more reliable and more worthy of our trust than the Doppler shifts, wobbles and loss of brightness due to osculation!

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:07PM (#34535628) Homepage Journal

      loss of brightness due to osculation

      It is true that once the serious making out begins, higher mental function tends to shut down, but I don't think that was quite what you meant.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:08PM (#34535640) Journal

      is somehow more reliable and more worthy of our trust than the Doppler shifts, wobbles and loss of brightness due to osculation!

      WTF is osculation?

      From Webster's:

      osculum (äskyoo lm, -ky-)
      noun pl. oscula -la (-l)
      any of the openings of a sponge though which water passes out

      Are you suggesting that the images have been passed through the pisser of a sponge?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are you suggesting that the images have been passed through the pisser of a sponge?

        I'll be in my bunk.

      • by jbsouthe (448785)

        Ala Apple dictionary lookup thingy:

        osculate |äskylt|
        verb [ trans. ]
        1 Mathematics (of a curve or surface) touch (another curve or surface) so as to have a common tangent at the point of contact : [as adj. ] ( osculating) the plots have been drawn using osculating orbital elements.
        2 formal or humorous kiss.

        I'm not sure if he meant the former or the later

        • Typo buddy...

          Thet's what I thought when I first read your post. What really ticks me off is when otherwise comprtent writers (Alistair Reynolds, I'm looking at you...) use the word "occlude" to describe an object passing in front of (or behind) another object. Occult means "pass behind" or hidden from view"*, occlude means "stopped up"

          *a much better definition of "occult powers" than the definition "supernatural".

          • by slick7 (1703596)

            use the word "occlude" to describe an object passing in front of (or behind) another object. Occult means "pass behind" or hidden from view"*, occlude means "stopped up"

            *a much better definition of "occult powers" than the definition "supernatural".

            A better definition would be "arcane" since even with the best telescopes available, it is still hidden from view.

    • Re:Quite strange. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kjella (173770) on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:13PM (#34535692) Homepage

      Trust is not so important as being reproducible and verified by multiple methods. There's no explicit reason to distrust "doppler shifts, wobbles and loss of brightness due to osculation" but it's good science to say "Well, if what we're measuring is the result of a planet, we should be able to do X and see the planet directly. If we don't, there's something wrong. That it has been correct for near star systems give credibility to the other methods that they'll be correct for distant star systems. Sometimes you have to accept single-source results because it's the world's largest and most sensitive telescope or most powerful particle accelerator or things like that, but it's not ideal to leave it at that. Verifying results is a lot less glorious than making the discoveries in the first place, but it's an important part of science.

    • by toetagger (642315)

      One could almost forgive the bishops and the cardinals distrusting the instrument, and saying they will believe only things that they can see with their eye.

      So in other words, those bishops and cardinals must have seen God, otherwise they wouldn't belief in him. More likely, this has to do with what we want (or need) as humans. In their case, it was power, in our case, it is hope (through exploration/discovery).

    • Don't forget gravitational microlensing as a technique!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AaronParsons (1172445)
      It is all rather miraculous, how far scientific instrumentation has come, but I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with:

      is considered "direct imaging" and is somehow more reliable and more worthy of our trust than the Doppler shifts, wobbles and loss of brightness due to osculation!

      This is "direct imaging", because it is directly measuring the spatial distribution of photons arriving from this system, even if it is done with mirrors and CCDs, and not your eye. This sets this measurement apart from the other techniques you have described for inferring the presence of planets from their gravitational pull on the host star.

      As for "somehow more reliable", I don

      • by beelsebob (529313)

        I don't see how directly measuring the spatial distribution of photons arriving from the system is any different from directly measuring the frequency distribution over time of photons arriving from the system, or directly measuring the number of photons arriving from the system.

        We seem to put higher credence on one method because it's the method our eye uses to measure something.

        • We do put a lot of credence on imaging as people, but this breakthrough discovery doesn't have that same problem. It's not like we waited to discover exoplanets until we imaged them directly. That discovery happened a decade ago, and was done using the pull of a planet on its host star.

          Imaging is a powerful step forward. Localization matters. You've piled up all of the signal associated with a planet in a bin, where that signal is very easy to differentiate from background signals and from noise. Th
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Yeah, isn't our century awesome ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by slick7 (1703596)

      When Galileo invented the telescope,

      More like re-invented.
      Ecclesiastes 1:9

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday December 13, 2010 @11:54AM (#34535488)

    The oceans are about 5% explored. [noaa.gov] More resources should be geared toward the oceans as well.

    You never know...we might find some creature under there that has some complex protein mankind could use to treat chronic diseases like diabetes, AIDS and the like.

    How'z that?

  • First Four Exoplanet System are Image

  • by thomasdz (178114) on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:00PM (#34535558)

    I hope this doesn't cause a slashdotting of the Herzberg Institute, but...
    http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/news/nrc/2010/12/08/exoplanet-marois.html [nrc-cnrc.gc.ca]

    • by sugapablo (600023)
      Easiest way to execute a DDoS attack is to post about it on /., huh? :)
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The planets orbit the star HR 8799, which lies about 129 light years from Earth and is faintly visible to the naked eye

      If there are any post-industrial intelligences there, they should be hearing our radio signals -- morse code from the 1800s. Has SETI been looking at them?

  • The site's dead Jim.

  • While this is better than the blobby pixels we usually get for such remote planetary bodies, I don't consider this an "image" appreciable to the lay person. It just shows fuzzy dots around a larger fuzzy region and to this lay person at least does not conclusively show that these "objects" are indeed exo-planets. Who's to say they aren't some other, wholly unrelated celestial body? And what information does this sort of "image" convey even to professional astronomers?

    If a horde of scientists can argue for m

    • As with a lot of things, context is everything. By itself, one of these images doesn't say much. But when you know that it was pointed toward a system known (through independent measurements) to have planets, and that it was taken in an infrared band where lukewarm blackbody spectrum of dusty planets are expected to have peak, and the "blobs" are at angular separations that correspond in distance to tens of AUs (1 AU is the distance of the Earth from the Sun), then you start to have something. As with al
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Repeat the observation another 2 times and you have the minimum amount of data required to describe the orbits of those bodies from optical observations alone. That would prove that the objects are orbiting the central star.

  • ...it's full of planets!
  • I'm just eyeballing the pictures, but, they don't appear to move.

    This isn't surprising for the outer dots, which are 20-60 times farther from the star than Earth is from the sun, but the innermost one doesn't seem to move either. Not even a little.

    There should be some rearrangement in the 4 months between the photos.

    Where is it?

    • by Cytotoxic (245301)

      That's an interesting observation. The innermost planet imaged is 14.5 AU from the star, placing it somewhere between Saturn (at about 9.5 AU) and Uranus (at about 19 AU) in distance. If the star had a mass similar to the sun, this would place the orbital period somewhere between 30 years and 90 years. So that probably explains it.

  • I can just imagine a crowd of sentient beings all peering hopefully at an image much like the one in TFA, showing a star and four planets much like our own, wondering the same thing I am...

    "So, when are we going?"

  • I can't help but think that many of astronomic "discoveries" these days is hokum. It's either that or the overblown headlines.

    Tell me straight:
    1) Is ANY EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE found? (the simplest of bacteria/viruses are ok, proteins that make life forms aren't)
    2) Is there any evidence of WATER ANYWHERE else but here? (answers "there could be ice" & "look at the Mars' ridges" are not acceptable, sorry)
    3) Is there a planet LIKE EARTH of whose existence we are certain? (anything goes here really)

    • by Punko (784684)
      1) We're still looking. It helps to find planets so we know where to look. Space is big, really.
      2) By 'water' I will assume you mean water in its liquid phase, because water in solid form has been found all over the place. Its common as muck.
      3) As soon as you can tell me exactly what you mean by "like earth". Do you mean with oceans and land and nitrogen/oxygen rich atmosphere with white and black sand beaches and restaurants where the steak overhangs the plate on 3 sides? If you mean have you found
      • by Punko (784684)

        There is no substitute for hard work in science.

        And no substitute for checking your spelling.

      • by paxcoder (1222556)

        Exactly. In short: no, yes(?) and no. It was just overblown headlines.
        It's not me who's waiting for a big discovery, it's just them who are pushing small ones as such.

        Let's instead talk about Mars: How does one *know* (because "know" is what one needs to justify the headlines) that there is water on Mars?
        Guessing ftl.

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein

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