Wednesday, April 1, 2009

HR 8799 Planet: Photographed by Hubble, Revealed by Infotech

"Astronomers Find Hidden Exoplanet in Hubble's Dustbin"
Wired Science (April 1, 2009)

"An exoplanet hidden in the Hubble Space Telescope's archival images has been revealed by data miners using a new technique for spotting the satellites of distant stars.

"In search of more information about a known exoplanet orbiting the star HR8799 about 130 light-years from Earth, astronomers turned to the catalog of images Hubble has been amassing for more than 15 years. Using an algorithm that can block the bright light of observed stars allowing the much fainter exoplanets circling them to be seen, the team spotted the planet in an image from 1998.

"The same technique could be used on 200 similar datasets from Hubble, as well an unknown number of archival images from ground-based telescopes...."

"Dustbin" is a catchy word to put in the title, but the repository of data from Hubble is as much a "dustbin" as is the Library of Congress.

However, the article has an artist's rendering (cool picture) and a processed image from Hubble (nowhere near as polished - but much cooler, because it's real).

Exciting times, these that we live in. I didn't see any detail about HR8799's planet - another website did a better job with that part of the story.

"Hidden Planet Discovered in Old Hubble Data (April 1, 2009)

"A new technique has uncovered an extrasolar planet hidden in Hubble Space Telescope images taken 11 years ago

"The new strategy may allow researchers to uncover other distant alien worlds potentially lurking in over a decade's worth of Hubble archival data.

"The method was used to find an exoplanet that went undetected in Hubble images taken in 1998 with its Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Astronomers knew of the planet's existence from images taken with the Keck and Gemini North telescopes in 2007 and 2008, long after Hubble snapped its first picture of the system.

"The planet is estimated to be at least seven times the mass of Jupiter. It is the outermost of three massive planets known to orbit the dusty young star HR 8799, which is 130 light-years away from Earth...."

( gives credit for that "artistic illustration" to NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI).)

Sounds like the planet is another 'hot Jupiter' - Which brings up another point. In the last few years, astronomers have found enough extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, to start dividing them into categories.

More about HR 8799, both rather technical:

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