Thursday, November 13, 2008

We can see you



Okay, enough complaining: this is the coolest news I've seen since Obama won.
For the first time, astronomers have taken a visual image of a multiple-planet solar system beyond our own.

Using the Gemini North telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, researchers observed in infrared light three planets orbiting around a star about 130 light-years away from Earth, called HR 8799. The discovery, published today in Science Express, is a step forward in the hunt for planets, and life, beyond Earth.

The alien system is supersized compared to our own: All three planets are gas giants, weighing roughly 10, 10 and 7 times the mass of Jupiter, circling a parent star 1.5 times the mass of our sun, and 5 times as bright. The giant bodies (two of which are pictured above) are orbiting at roughly 25, 40, and 70 times the distance between Earth and our sun. If there are Earth-sized planets present, they are too small to see with current technology.
What an age we live in.

Oh, and Canadian scientists FTW!

2 comments:

North of 49 said...

Better yet, one point I heard mentioned was that even though these planets are gas giants and not even remotely habitable for life as we know it, they might have moons that would be.

Not that we can detect those moons yet, assuming they exist, but still. Way cool.

Zack said...

I for one welcome our new supermassive alien overlords.