Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers confirm the first image of a planet outside of our solar system

03.05.2005


An international team of astronomers reports April 29 the confirmation of the discovery of a giant planet, approximately five times the mass of Jupiter, that is gravitationally bound to a young brown dwarf. This discovery puts an end to a yearlong discussion on the nature of this object, which started with the detection of a red object close to the brown dwarf.



In February and March of this year, the astronomers took new images of the young brown dwarf and its giant planet companion with the state-of-the-science NACO instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in northern Chile. The planet is near the southern constellation of Hydra and approximately 200 light years from Earth.

"Our new images show convincingly that this really is a planet, the first planet that has ever been imaged outside of our solar system," said Gael Chauvin, astronomer at the ESO and leader of the team of astronomers who conducted the study.


"The two objects -- the giant planet and the young brown dwarf -- are moving together; we have observed them for a year, and the new images essentially confirm our 2004 finding," said Benjamin Zuckerman, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, member of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, and a member of the team. "I’m more than 99 percent confident. This is also the first time that a planet outside of our solar system has been detected far from a star or brown dwarf -- nearly twice as far as the distance between Neptune and the sun."

Anne-Marie Lagrange, another member of the team from the Grenoble Observatory in France, said, "Our discovery represents a first step towards one of the most important goals of modern astrophysics: to characterize the physical structure and chemical composition of giant and, eventually, terrestrial-like planets."

Last September, the same team of astronomers reported a faint reddish speck of light in the close vicinity of a young brown dwarf. The feeble object, now called 2M1207b, is more than 100 times fainter than the brown dwarf, 2M1207A. The spectrum of 2M1207b presents a strong signature of water molecules, thereby confirming that it must be cold. Based on the infrared colors and the spectral data, evolutionary model calculations led to the conclusion that 2M1207b is a five-Jupiter-mass planet. Its mass can be estimated also by use of a different method of analysis, which focuses on the strength of its gravitational field; this technique suggests that the mass might be even less than that of five Jupiters.

At the time of its discovery in April 2004, it was impossible to prove that the faint source is not a background object (such as an unusual galaxy or a peculiar cool star with abnormal infrared colors), even though this appeared very unlikely. Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, obtained in August 2004, corroborated the VLT/NACO observations, but were taken too soon after the NACO ones to demonstrate conclusively that the faint source is a planet.

The new observations show with high confidence that the two objects are moving together and hence are gravitationally bound.

The paper describing this research has been accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics, a premier journal in astronomy.

"Given the rather unusual properties of the 2M1207 system, the giant planet most probably did not form like the planets in our solar system," Chauvin said. "Instead it must have formed the same way our sun formed, by a one-step gravitational collapse of a cloud of gas and dust."

The same European/American team has had another paper just accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics. This paper reports the imaging discovery with the same VLT/NACO instrumentation of a lightweight companion to AB Pictoris, a young star located about 150 light years from Earth. The estimated mass of the companion is between 13 and 14 times the mass of Jupiter, which places the companion right on the borderline between massive planets and the lowest mass brown dwarfs.

"Remarkably, this companion is located very far from its host star -- about nine times farther from AB Pictoris than Neptune is from the sun," Zuckerman said. Nothing so far from its star has ever been seen in a planetary system before, he added.

Brown dwarfs, the missing link between gas giant planets like Jupiter and small, low?mass stars, are failed stars about the size of Jupiter, with a much larger mass -- but not quite large enough to become stars. Like the sun and Jupiter, they are composed mainly of hydrogen gas, perhaps with swirling cloud belts. Unlike the sun, they cannot fuse protons to helium nuclei as their primary internal energy source, and they emit almost no visible light.

Stuart Wolpert | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.college.ucla.edu

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

Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas

19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

New creepy, crawly search and rescue robot developed at Ben-Gurion U

19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says

19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>