While injecting my daily dose of Internet news, I learned something incredible: we now have what looks like direct photographic evidence of planets orbiting other stars! I found it pretty hard to believe, but there it is, in black and white (or rather, purple and white).
One of the planets was found orbiting the star Fomalhaut, around 25 light-years from Earth.
Photo courtesy of Discovermagazine.com’s Bad Astronomy Blog.
This is a true “Holy shit!” moment. So far, the only planets we’ve found by direct imaging have either been too large to be properly classified as planets, or they haven’t been orbiting actual stars. In short, this is monumental.
It gets better. Much better. The Keck/Gemini observatory gives us this image of the star HR 8799.
Your eyes do not decieve. What you are looking at is two (TWO!!!) planets orbiting HR 8799. Apparently, they saw a third one, too, but I’m too busy picking my jaw up off the floor to go hunting for images.
I am actually too shocked and giddy to write anything useful. Sometimes, the universe sees fit to remind me why I became a science nerd in the first place.
You can read more about both planetary systems here and get the juicy details about the one orbiting HR 8799 here.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wipe the drool off my face. And pick my jaw up off the floor.
(NOTE: This seems to me like a pretty good reason to either maintain or replace Hubble. That, and the mystery object it found a couple of months ago)