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Space Science

Astronomers Get Picture of Nearby Exoplanet 24

The Bad Astronomer writes "While nearly a thousand planets are known to orbit other stars, getting direct pictures of them is extremely difficult due to the glare from their host stars. Fewer than a dozen images of exoplanets exist. However, we can now add one more to the list: Kappa Andromedae b, or Kap And b for short. It's about 170 light years away, and orbits Kappa And, a massive star bright enough to see with the naked eye. One hitch: its mass puts it right at the upper limit for a planet, and it may edge into brown dwarf territory. Further observations are needed to pin its mass down."
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Astronomers Get Picture of Nearby Exoplanet

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  • Exciting times (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meetpi ( 2776369 ) on Monday November 19, 2012 @05:05PM (#42031509)

    It is a really exciting time in astronomy at the moment, a real age of discovery. As the article points out, it was not so many years ago that we didn't even know if exoplanets existed, and now we know about nearly 1000 of them. Our detection methods, while clever are pretty limited. They all tend to bias discoveries to certain kinds of planets and star systems, so it's reasonable to expect that the typical star system is a bit different than our current database would suggest.

    But what's exciting to me is that our imaging technologies are improving all the time, both through better optics and computer assisted imaging (eg: adaptive optics which can offset much of the distortion caused by the Earth's atmosphere). This means that there's an excellent chance that before long we'll be able to start getting more detail about these systems, possibly including analysis of light from some of the planets which will tell us what kind of gases are in their atmospheres. In my lifetime we may even be able to answer the question of whether life exists on other planets (not necessarily intelligent life, but any life would be a momentous discovery).

    All in all, it's a great time to be alive: I think of it as the dawn of an age of discovery. If you're into exoplanet discoveries and you have an iPad, I'd highly recommend the Exoplanet app (I am not affiliated with it in any way, it's just a cool little app).

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan