The image was taken using the VLT telescope in Cerro Paranal, Chile, and shows two immense exoplanets around a young star 300 light years from us
An international team of astronomers took the first photo of exoplanets around a star similar to the Sun. The star, called TYC 8998-760-1, is 300 light years away and has at least two planets around it.
In the image below we see the star in the upper left corner, and the planets are the bright spots in the center and lower right corner of the image. The photo was taken using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in Cerro Paranal, Chile.
Photo shows two exoplanets around the starTYC 8998-760-1 (in the upper left corner). Photo: ESO / VLT
The star is still a “baby”, 17 million years old. The planet closest to it is 160 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun (160 astronomical units, or AU), and is 14 times the mass of Jpiter. The second planet is even more distant, at 320 AU.
The innermost planet is so big that astronomers speculate that it may be a “brown magnet”, an object that, although immense, does not have enough mass to start the hydrogen fusion in its core and become a star.
“Although astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a tiny fraction of them have been photographed directly,” says Matthew Kenworthy, associate professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and co-author of the article where the image was published. “Direct observations are important in the search for environments that can support life”.
The researchers are excited about the possibility that even larger telescopes, like the ELT (Extremely Large Telescope) being built in Chile, can photograph even smaller, Earth-like planets.
“The possibility that future instruments, such as those available at ELT, are able to detect planets with an even smaller mass around this star is an important milestone in our understanding of multiplanet systems, with potential implications for the history of our own solar system”, said Alexander Bohn, a PhD student at Leiden University and author of the article.
Astronomy space Exoplanets Science & Space space exploration