Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Confirmation of Directly Imaged Planet

In 2008, Canadian astronomers announced that they had taken the first direct image of an exo-solar planet. As I noted in my post from 2008, previously imaged exo-solar planets orbited brown dwarfs, also known as failed stars.

While unlikely, there was still a chance that the image showed a juxtaposition of the host star and a faint background star. In order to rule this out, one needs a second observation to show that the star and the planet have move together. If it was indeed a background star, then they would be moving a different rates, and in different directions, and this would become apparent with the second observations.

The same team has now announced that a followup observation with the Gemini North telescope has confirmed that the object is definitely a planet orbiting the host star. They also obtained images at other wavelengths, which confirm the temperature and mass they derived in 2008.

The planet
around 1RXS J160929.1–210524. is 8.4 times Jupiter’s mass, and is about 1800 kelvin (2780° Fahrenheit). The planet orbits its star at 330 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.

For more information see the Gemini press release.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Canada's Artic May Have the Best View of the Universe

Recent studies suggest that Canada may have the best site (short of being in space) for viewing the Universe. Preliminary testing of a site located on Ellesmere Island, located far north of the Arctic Circle, show that the images of the night sky are extremely sharp. This, in addition to a low percentage of cloud cover, make this site very attractive for locating a telescope. Rob Thacker has written a nice articleLink on this research.