An image of an exo-planet?

In the news over the past couple of days, has been the story of the first image of an extra-solar planet around a star other than the Sun. First I should point out that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) currently class it as a "Giant Planet Candidate Companion (GPCC)" which somehow doesn't sound as exciting.

It was observerd near to a brown dwarf (failed star) called 2MASSWJ1207334-393254 - a classic name that nobody could forget! When I say near it was very close in angular terms; it was only 0.8 arcseconds which is less than the normal 'seeing' disk on the surface of the Earth. Seeing, or twinkling of stars, is due to atmospheric turbulence and basically means that you can't see any detail finer than about 0.5 arcseconds from a good site. However, the images were taken on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) using adaptive optics which counteracts the effect of 'twinkling' by constantly deforming the telescope's mirror.

They have been able to confirm that it is a substellar object by observing the spectrum of light it emits and comparing it to other substellar objects. At the moment though, they can't rule out the possibility that it is an older and more massive, foreground or background, cool brown dwarf.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 15th Sep 2004 (17:22 UTC) | Permalink
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