April 9, 2005

extrasolar planet spotted in our solar system!

over 150 planets have been discovered so far by looking at wobbles in the paths of the stars they are orbiting. but, of course, since the planets themselves don't emmit radiation it has been impossible to observe them directly, until now. some astronomers believe they may have gotten a photograph of a planet orbiting gq lupi at a distance of 100 au. it must be pretty big to be visible from reflected light at this distance, since 100 au is 2.5 times as far away as pluto and the star itself is at least 400 lightyears away. the spectrum seems to indicate that the object is cool, but more analysis of the mass will be needed to show that it isn't a brown dwarf. amazingly, this star with its companion was already photographed in 2002 and 1999 by sky surveys done with hubble and subaru but no one had noticed it until this march.