Rare image of distant exoplanet captured

Nov. 19, 2012 at 8:36 PM
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HEIDELBERG, Germany, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Astronomers using an infrared telescope in Hawaii say they've captured a rare image of a "Super-Jupiter" around a massive distant star.

Of the nearly 850 exoplanets discovered orbiting stars other than the sun, only a few have been captured in actual astronomical images.

Most are detected by indirect means, since stars are much brighter than their planets and with traditional observational techniques the planet will be hidden in the glare of its host star.

Obtaining an image of the planet orbiting the star Kappa Andromeda required advanced techniques both for observation and for image analysis to mask the light of the star to reveal the presence of its orbiting companion, astronomers said.

The new Super-Jupiter is orbiting a fairly young star and at a distance comparable to planetary orbits within our own solar system, the research team led by Joseph Carson of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, said.

This suggests the planet formed in a manner similar to that of lower mass planets, within a primordial, "protoplanetary" disk of gas and dusk that surrounded the star during its earliest stages, the researchers said.

This makes it an important test case for current models of planet formation and their predictions about planets around massive stars, they said.

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