Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fomalhaut B Discovered

Fomalhaut is a star 27 light-years away from earth and is one of the brightest in the nighttime southern hemisphere sky in the constellation of Piscis Australis. And now scientists have photographic proof of extrasolar planets now that orbit that star.

Astronomers, using the corongraph on the Hubble Advanced Camera for Survey in 2004 created a false exclipse blocking the star itself – which basically allowed the astronomers to view the dust cloud circling that star. A second image was collected in 2006 which showed how far the planet had moved along in its orbit. That orbit is now determined to be about a 872-Earth-year orbit around Fomalhaut. That places this new extrasolar planet just within that star's comparable Kuiper Belt. Basically – its about the same distance from Fomalhaut as Neptune is from our own sun (10.7 billion miles from Fomalhaut is what the astronomers announched).

To date, more than 300 extrasolar planets have been detected, but only with indirect methods.

Ref. AW&ST Nov. 17, 2008. page 35. “Extrasolar Planets”

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