Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Light from Extra-Solar Planet - Seen for 1st Time

Whoooooooooo Hooooooooo blog fan Courtney sends in this article that left me tingling! Light from a planet circling a distant star was for the first time viewed by space telescopes in orbit around Earth! That my friends is what I call a historic achievement!

The scope doing NASA's heavy lifting for this discovery was the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope. The telescope spotted light coming from the alien planet with the rather innocuous moniker of 55 Cancri e. This Super Earth (so designated because its' size is roughly twice that of Earth and a mass density of about 18 times that of Earth) orbits a star 41 light-years from Earth.

Of course this is not the first time that Spitzer has pulled off this hat trick. In 2005 it also gathered IR light coming from an extra-solar planed, however this was "hot Jupiter," an ultra hot gas giant far larger than 55 Cancri e that orbited extremely close to its parent star.

The more 55 Cancri e is studied, the stranger it becomes. Not only is it ultra dense, it orbits 26 times closer than the distance between Mercury and our own sun!

Oh and it gets weirder! Here is the link to the article. Read just how nightmarish 55 Cancri e could really be!

Graphic is a plot of data from NASA's Spitzer …

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