Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Planetary family portrait reveals another exoplanet

09.12.2010
NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics releases image of fourth planet orbiting bright star HR 8799

An international team of astronomers has discovered a fourth giant planet, HR 8799e, outside our solar system. The new planet joins the three planets that were the subjects of the first-ever images of a planetary family orbiting a star other than our Sun. The planets orbit the star HR 8799, which lies about 129 light years from Earth and is faintly visible to the naked eye.

The international team included astronomer Dr. Christian Marois of the National Research Council Canada (NRC) in Victoria, B.C., as well as astronomers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and the Lowell Observatory. Their discovery was published today in Nature (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09684), and images of the fourth planet were captured at Hawaii's W. M. Keck Observatory.

All four planets orbiting HR 8799 are similar in size: likely between five and seven times the mass of Jupiter, the largest planet in the Sun's own family. The newly revealed planet orbits HR 8799 more closely than the other three. If this newly discovered planet were in orbit around the Sun, it would lie between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus.

"We reached a milestone in the search for other worlds in 2008 with the discovery of the HR 8799 planetary system," said Dr. Christian Marois, an astronomer with NRC. Dr. Marois is the first author of the new paper and designed the improved image-processing software that made the new discovery possible. "The images of this new inner planet are the culmination of ten years' worth of innovation, making steady progress to optimize every aspect of observation and analysis. Compared with what was previously possible, this allows us to detect planets located ever closer to their stars and ever further from our own solar system."

Discovery of this fourth giant planet strengthens the remarkable resemblance between the HR 8799 planetary system and our own — the HR 8799 system appears as a supersized version of our solar system. "Besides having four giant planets, both systems also contain two 'debris belts,' composed of small rocky or icy objects along with lots of tiny dust particles," said co-author Ben Zuckerman, a professor of physics and astronomy at UCLA. The mass of the HR 8799 planetary system is much more extreme than that of our own — the combined mass of the four giant planets may be twenty times higher, and the debris belt counterparts are also much larger than our own.

"The four massive planets pull on each other gravitationally," said co-author Quinn Konopacky, a post-doctoral researcher at LLNL. "We don't yet know if the system will last for billions of years, or fall apart in a few million more. As astronomers carefully follow the HR 8799 planets during the coming decades, the question of the stability of their orbits could become much clearer."

The origin of these four giant planets remains a puzzle — neither of the two main models of planet formation can account for all four objects. Dr. Bruce Macintosh of LLNL, a co-author, noted that there's no simple model that can form all four planets at their current location. It's going to be a challenge for our theoretical colleagues.

Travis Barman, a Lowell Observatory exoplanet theorist and study co-author stated images like these bring the exoplanet field, which studies planets outside our solar system, into an era of exoplanet characterization. Astronomers can now directly examine the atmospheric properties of four giant exoplanets that are all the same young age and that formed from the same building materials.

Detailed study of the properties of HR 8799e will be challenging due to its relative faintness and proximity to its star. To overcome these limitations, a team led by Dr. Macintosh, including NRC and several US institutions, is building an advanced new instrument, called the Gemini Planet Imager for the Gemini Observatory. This new instrument will physically block the starlight and allow quick detection and detailed characterization of planets similar to HR 8799e. The Gemini Planet Imager is scheduled to arrive at the Gemini South telescope in Chile late in 2011. "We can expect a tidal wave of new discoveries with the new planet imager. HR 8799 is really just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. Marois.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dr. Marois, please visit NRC's Web site at http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca or contact:
Media Relations
National Research Council Canada
613-991-1431
media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
About the National Research Council of Canada
Recognized globally for research and innovation, the National Research Council of Canada is a leader in the development of an innovative, knowledge-based economy for Canada through science and technology.

NRC Media Relations | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Further reports about: Council LLNL Macintosh NRC Observatory Planet Planetary giant planet new planet planetary system planets orbit

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>