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Space Science

First Image of a Planet Orbiting a Sun-Like Star 131

Several readers including houbou and DigitumDei sent links to what may be the first-ever image of a planet orbiting a sun-like star (research paper). The giant planet, the mass of 8 Jupiters, orbits its star at 330 AU, or 11 times the distance to Neptune's orbit. If the imaged object does turn out to be a planet — and it's not certain it is — then theories of planet formation may have to be adjusted. "The bulk of the material from which planets might form is significantly closer to the parent star... The outermost parts of such disks wouldn't contain enough material to assemble a Jupiter-mass planet at the distance from the star... at which the Toronto team found the faint object."
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First Image of a Planet Orbiting a Sun-Like Star

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:23PM (#25033141)

    I suspect that will be the case for many many decades/centuries, considering a current sample size of 9 +/- planets big enough to wobble their stars enough that we can see with current tech.

    I suspect the more we resolve and catalog and the more we get direct observations of planets, the more the theories will change.

  • Planetary Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:53PM (#25033393) Homepage Journal

    If the imaged object does turn out to be a planet â" and it's not certain it is â" then theories of planet formation may have to be adjusted

    Since all of the current theories about planetary formation around stellar objects consist of a statistical sample of one, I'd like to hope that Astro-physicists would be able to come up with some better theories when that sample size is increased.

    One thing we do know from stellar observations is that binary or multiple star systems are much more common than solitary stellar systems like we have here around Sol. Even from observation of stellar nurseries it is also apparent that the physical structures that give rise to stars are born in highly complex environments of which our Solar System was likely a rather bland or even "ideal laboratory" example of how planetary systems were created.

    Given the distance (330 AU... about 1/10th the same distance as between the Sun and Neptune) and if I were "betting" on what would be found with a planetary probe going to this star system, I think you would find nearly a complete planetary system around this gas giant as well, with this "planet" simply being in the Continuum between O-class blue giant stars and grains of sand.

    Of course this observation of discovering a secondary system is based upon a sample size of 4 gas giants in our own solar system that all seem to have their own satellite systems as well. That is more like shooting fish in a barrel to make this sort of prediction.

    Seriously, other than a highly simplistic planetary creation model, I fail to see what huge changes in formation theory this will actually make, other than to give more pause to think about how complex the stellar formation process might be.

  • Re:First? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:56PM (#25033413) Homepage

    Okay but what about "Blue marble"? That predates this effort, and clearly shows a planet which is known to orbit a sun-like star.

  • by JackCroww ( 733340 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @09:20PM (#25033575)
    Maybe you made a typo, but Neptune orbits at roughly 30 AU from Sol, making Neptune at 1/10th the distance of the exo-planet in the article. Hence the question of WTF is it doing out so far from its primary? However, if it wasn't a typo on your part, you need to bone up on your basic Solar system facts, and your theory about it being a typical planetary system would be dead wrong.
  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:38PM (#25034401)

    orbiting stars that are totally unlike the sun?

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