Dance of the exoplanets

Credit: C. Marois et al./NRC Canada

Less than 130 light-years from Earth — a mere stone’s throw away as things are measured in the cosmic scale — lies a young star named HR 8799. Although perhaps unremarkable in an objective sense, for us humans, this is a special celestial object. It, and its system of planets, is one of the first to be directly imaged by astronomers.

Usually, the presence of exoplanets — planets that orbit a star other than our sun — is confirmed through indirect means, such as by studying the dimming of the parent star’s light when an object passes in front of it. In 2008, however, scientists were able to, for the first time, observe three of HR 8799’s four planets directly using the Keck and Gemini telescopes in Hawaii.

Now, eight years hence, Jason Wang — an astronomy student at the University of California, Berkeley — has used images taken by the Keck observatory to create a short but stunning video showing the four exoplanets in motion. … (IBT)

Credit: C. Marois et al./NRC Canada

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