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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hubble Returns Image of an Exoplanet


The first ever confirmed image of an exoplanet has been returned by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This exoplanet orbits the star Fomalhaut in the constellation Piscis Austrinis. The exoplanet has now been dubbed Fomalhaut B. In the Hubble image below, you can see the Fomalhaut system, with its ring of dust and debris. Inset is an image of the planet taken in 2 different years, showing its apparent motion.


Hubble image of Fomalhaut system. Click for larger image.


Fomalhaut B is thought to be a gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn in our own Solar system. This planet seems to be much brighter than one would expect, however. Astronomers have theorized that this could be a gigantic ring system much larger than Saturn's. It's possible that the Fomalhaut system is similar to our own Solar system in its youth, hence the giant dust and debris cloud.

Read the press release here >>

Image Courtesy of: NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, and E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif.), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.)

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