Mink Machine

Twinkle twinkle little planet

Over 130 stars have been shown to have orbiting planets during the last years. Their presences are basically detected in two ways: either by a slight wobble in the star positions due to gravity or a variation in intensity as the planet pass in front of the star. However, there has been no actual light detection of any extra-solar planet, a visual confirmation of sorts.

Until now.

Researchers at Cornell University and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has detected light from two planets, cataloged as HD 209458b and TrES-1, situated in the constellations of Pegasus and Lyra, respectively. The detection was made by comparing the light intensity of the system as the planet passed behind the star.

They are both gas giants and very hot since they orbit close to their stars and thus emit a lot of infrared radiation due to heat absorption, which will make detection easier. One of the planets seems to have a circular orbit rather than elliptical, which would be a significant finding.

Read more about it at Spitzer Telescope home page, NASA Spitzer site and Cornell’s Spitzer telescope site.

I wonder what the astronomers will come up with in the following years. Humans will most likely not visit an extra-solar planet in my lifetime, but I hope to at least see one from a distance with greater detail than the above mentioned pioneering techniques. These are exciting times!

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