Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Planet Photographed 300 LY from Earth

First, lets do the math light travels at 186000 miles a second, times 60 for a minute and 60 again for an hour.  Now 24 for 1 day and 365 day and we find that a light year is almost 6 trillion miles.   So when it was reported that the European Southern Observatory had taken a photo of a planet 300 light years, we should all be gasping in awe!  News articles really marginalize the stupendous distances involved because 300 light years is about 17000 trillion miles and it was a planet not the parent star!  I mean, it has got to be like someone in Boston taking a picture of an ant on top of the Seattle spire!  I had trouble with 3 light years....300! Someone check the math...I may even have dropped a zero or two....

The article points out also that even though it is a gas giant, it is the smallest planet photoed outside our Solar System.   The planet in question is named called HD 95086 b  orbiting as you might expect HD 95086.   The picture was taken in infrared light which allowed the planet to be seen easier.  

This pic here has the parent star removed so the planet shines out as a brilliant blue dot at the bottom of the photo to the right.
 Astronomers estimate that the exo-planet to be only 4 or 5 times larger than Jupiter.    One thing did help in photographing the planet.  It orbits the central sun at twice the distance of Neptune's orbit.   The top photo has a ring noting Neptune's orbit.

Thanks to Carole for the initial heads up.  Here is the link to the article

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