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 What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>