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Look Mom: A New Planet

John Stith
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-05-02

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About a year ago, a red speck appeared next to a brown dwarf star in the Hydra constellation. The European Southern Observatory eyed this red dot with its telescope in Chile. Scientists speculated this speck might be a previously unknown planet. It would seem they were right.

This red speck of a planet isn't so much of speck though. This little speck is 230 light years away, is 5 times the size of Jupiter and 8 billion miles from its sun. This is about twice the distance of Neptune from our sun, some interesting statistics for the little red speck.

It also marks the first planet seen outside our solar system that has been seen that far away from it's star or brown dwarf. The little red speck is the first planet to be imaged outside of the solar system.

For Gael Chauvin, astronomer at ESO and leader of the team of astronomers who conducted the study, "this new set of NACO measurements unambiguously confirms that 2M1207b is a planetary mass companion to the young brown dwarf 2M1207A. The image released last year is thus truly the first image ever taken of a planet outside of our solar system."

For astronomists, this is one of the greatest finds ever because it is such a breakthrough. It will certainly give them fuel to continue their search for other planets.



"The two objects - the giant planet and the young brown dwarf - are moving together; we have observed them for a year, and the new images essentially confirm our 2004 finding", says Benjamin Zuckerman, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, member of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, and a member of the team. "I'm more than 99 percent confident. This would also be the first time that a planet outside of our solar system has been detected far from a star or brown dwarf - nearly twice as far as the distance between Neptune and the sun."




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About the Author:
John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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