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Three New Exoplanets Seen In Direct Photographs 43

Posted by timothy
from the way-out-there-man dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Planets orbiting other stars are usually found indirectly (by blocking their stars' light or inducing a Doppler shift in the light as they orbit, for example), but direct images of exoplanets are extremely rare. However, using the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii, astronomers have taken photographs of three nearby exoplanets, all young, massive, and hot. One may be massive enough to count as a brown dwarf, but the other two are more likely in the planet-mass range. All three are very far from their stars, which means they may have formed differently than the planets in our solar system."
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Three New Exoplanets Seen In Direct Photographs

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  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:56PM (#45585153) Homepage

    As awesome as this is, I'd love to see a time-lapse series of an exoplanet orbiting its star. I think that'd really drive home what we're looking at.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @01:05PM (#45585261) Homepage

    What kind of technology would be required to confirm the presence of life visually?

    If you'd asked anybody that 25 years ago they'd laugh and say it's impossible. My first thought is it still might be, but the jumps they've made in imaging over the last few decades are staggering. Now you can get as good resolution from ground-based telescopes as the ones in space, because the image processing has gotten so much better.

    It would be quite a feat to directly image life on a planet over vast distances and through atmospheres, so my complete and total guess is unless they've got something really large and obvious like city lights, we probably can't.

    Could we ever "verify" that there was life on that planet without going there or sending a probe (which is currently not feasible)?

    I can't speculate how, but I'm not an astro-physicist (or a physicists for that matter) ... for all I know some of the boffins are trying to figure out how they'd go about this. It certainly would be one hell of a feat.

    When I was in university and hung out with astrophysicists, the notion of detecting an exoplanet was still a bit of a stretch. Since then, we've inferred or directly observed so many it's astounding.

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