First Ever Direct Imaging Of Planets Orbiting A Star System

Posted: Jan 29 2017, 11:16pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 29 2017, 11:21pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

First Ever Direct Imaging of Planets Orbiting a Star System
Credit: NASA

Stunning video shows four planets orbiting a star system located 129 light years away from Earth

Despite all the depictions and illustrations of star systems over the years, we have not been able to see the actual images of planets orbiting around a star.

Now, for the first time, an astronomy graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley has created a stunning animation by stitching together direct images of a star system located 129 light years away from the Earth.

This four-second animation is the result of more than seven years of observations from W.M. Keck observatory in Hawaii. The observatory has taken numerous images of the star system, called HR 8799, over the years and the graduate student Jason Wang has just turned those images into an incredible time-lapse video.

In the video, we can see four planets (white dots) orbiting around a star (inside a dark hole), like planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. Each of these four visible planets is more massive than Jupiter and takes between 40 and 400 years to complete one orbit. Three planets are much closer to the star while the fourth is orbiting relatively far away from the system.

HR 8799 is a young star that is just 30-million-year old and is almost five times brighter than Sun. It is located in the constellation of Pegasus.

In 2008, researchers discovered that the star is surrounded by three planets, making it a multiplanetary star system. The fourth planet was detected in further observations in following year. Researchers suggest that these planets orbit star in roughly circular motion.

“It's just really cool that we can watch planets orbit other stars, and awesome to see by eye Keplerian motion in action.” Jason Wang told National Geographic.

By studying a young star system such as HR 8799, researchers are hoping to learn more about how planets form and evolve. It is like watching a star and its planets from somewhere above in space.

“It's just hard to go back billions and billions of years and rewind time in our own solar system,” said Wang. “We rather find it easier to study young star systems like this to understand planet formation.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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