Friday, November 14, 2008

Astronomers See Exoplanets for First Time

Certainly the big news of the week is the direct observation for the first time of planets orbiting other stars.

The new observations required the latest, most sophisticated versions of two technologies. Large ground-based telescopes had to be fitted with so-called adaptive optics that compensate for the blurring effects of the atmosphere. These observatories and the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope also needed equipment to block most of the light from a central star.

With such modified scopes, astronomers led by Christian Marois of the National Research Council's Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, Canada, spotted three objects near a star 128 light-years away designated HR 8799. Another team, led by Paul Kalas of the University of California, Berkeley, found an additional exoplanet near the star Fomalhaut, just 25 light-years away and one of the brightest stars in the sky. All of the objects appeared to orbit their stars, fulfilling one requirement for a bona fide exoplanet detection.

This is all well and good, but have they found ET's home yet?



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