See the Far-Off Planets


When I was a kid, I hoped to live to see the day when we could glimpse planets revolving around other stars. Two in a row for the Astronomy Picture of the Day web site. Today’s image shows a glowing hot planet orbiting at 330AU from the parent star. It glows because it’s in the early stage of its own life. Massing eight jupiters, eventually it will cool, not being large enough to light its own inner fusion torch to become a star. While some might call it a “failed” star, I prefer to think of it as a magnificent planet, possibly with its own system of moons. Long term prognosis thirty billion miles out: a very cold eight-millennia trip around the parent yellow star. But gravity and tides may warm the moons. Travelers may eventually find a rather dark system on the fringes of starlight but with warm interiors.

Yesterday’s pic was from Beta Pic (Pictoris). That huge disk of dust has been known since the 80’s. But imaging the planet directly–that’s pretty new. The above image is from the European Southern Observatory, showing the 12-million year old parent star “blotted” out.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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