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First Image of a Planet Orbiting a Sun-Like Star

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the cold-jupiter dept.

Space 131

Several readers including houbou and DigitumDei sent links to what may be the first-ever image of a planet orbiting a sun-like star (research paper). The giant planet, the mass of 8 Jupiters, orbits its star at 330 AU, or 11 times the distance to Neptune's orbit. If the imaged object does turn out to be a planet — and it's not certain it is — then theories of planet formation may have to be adjusted. "The bulk of the material from which planets might form is significantly closer to the parent star... The outermost parts of such disks wouldn't contain enough material to assemble a Jupiter-mass planet at the distance from the star... at which the Toronto team found the faint object."

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ARGH! (5, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033011)

Damn you, Google Star View! There IS such a thing as privacy, you know!

Re:ARGH! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033065)

Google has no problem with protecting a star's privacy as long as they file out a request. Google has already sent out a message discussing their privacy policy. Considering that this star is 472 light years away, Google might have to update their system in about 944 years.

Re:ARGH! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034061)

"What do you mean you've never been to Alfa Centauri? Oh, for heavens sake mankind, it's only four light years away. I'm sorry but if you can't bother to take an interest in local affairs then ..." HHGG

Re:ARGH! (2, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034547)

Yeah, but what is more worrying if a planet can't be made at this distance it must either be the Vogons or the Borgs, and in either case we're fucked.

Re:ARGH! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034109)

Just in case the article will be slashdotted, here's the image:
Planet ----> . O <---- Star

That's no planet, it's a space station. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033027)

FTA-

"Apparently, a scientist at the LHC declared that the object is similar to the flash that an Imperial Star Destroyer does when reaching Warp 10.

Re:That's no planet, it's a space station. (1, Funny)

jcuervo (715139) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033769)

"Do you even know who I am?"
"Weren't you one of the Little Rascals?"

Where's the orbit? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033047)

...and yet where's the second pic to prove that it orbits?

Re:Where's the orbit? (1)

StarManta.Mini (860897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034379)

At that distance, its year would be many hundreds of years long. It'll take a long time to see any change in position visually.

Re:Where's the orbit? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034919)

Yes, assuming the object is orbiting the star, and using some quick and very dirty calculations based on information in the article, it has an orbital period of between 6 and 7 thousand years. Even if we were viewing at a right angle to its orbital trajectory it would take years to see it move at all and many more to determine its orbit with any certainty.

Looks like a smudge (0)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033051)

"Oh! Oh! What is that?! What is that?!!? A new planet?!!

Nope. Cheetoh."

Don't worry, we won't have to revise any theories (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033087)

The Toronto people are just confused as to why the planet isn't orbiting around them.

Re:Don't worry, we won't have to revise any theori (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033303)

One can forgive the town that produced Rush for being a trifle arrogant.

Re:Don't worry, we won't have to revise any theori (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034037)

Maybe the planet is part of the Solar Federation.

Not a planet (-1, Redundant)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033107)

It is the new version of the Empire's Death Star.

Low-bandwidth version in case of slashdotting (5, Funny)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033109)

O .

Re:Low-bandwidth version in case of slashdotting (0, Offtopic)

jaxtherat (1165473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033289)

BEST. ASCII. ART. EVER.

All Wrong! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033401)

Ridiculous! That picture is completely distorted! What paper are you looking at?

It was a lot more like this:

`O

This star must have a high rate of rotation (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033407)

As you can see from the nearly egg-like shape as the centrifugal forces compress the equator.

And if you observe that the planet orbits below the elliptical, you will have to agree that the planet was a rogue that was captured long after the star's formation.

Re:This star must have a high rate of rotation (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034535)

As you can see from the nearly egg-like shape as the centrifugal forces compress the equator.

You are joking, aren't you? Centrifugal force makes it get larger around the equator, not smaller.

Re:This star must have a high rate of rotation (5, Funny)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035053)

The star was spinning so fast that we all heard a "whoooooosh" through the vast expanse of space.

Re:This star must have a high rate of rotation (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25036283)

The star was spinning so fast that we all heard a "whoooooosh" through the vast expanse of space.

You are joking, aren't you? Sound doesn't travel through the vacuum of space.

Re:This star must have a high rate of rotation (2, Funny)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 5 years ago | (#25036669)

You are joking, aren't you? Sound doesn't travel through the vacuum of space.

Oh, that's what they meant. I thought they just meant screams didn't travel in the vacuum of space.

I'm pretty sure I just heard another "whooooooosh" coming from that sector.

Re:Low-bandwidth version in case of slashdotting (1)

barwasp (1116567) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033473)

More photo-realistic low-bandwidth images of the above are available on any CD-disk's bottom-side. Just touch the screen with that CD. Blinking your eyes while doing that converts it into a slideshow.

Re:Low-bandwidth version in case of slashdotting (1)

Kligat (1244968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033865)

If the Earth were as big as your arm, the Moon would be twenty feet away. Unfortunately, there isn't enough room for that much space on your computer screen.

Re:Low-bandwidth version in case of slashdotting (1)

jobst (955157) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033915)

or this :-O

in case the theory goes Bang (big bang, big bada bum).

we'd better hope... (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033123)

If the imaged object does turn out to be a planet â" and it's not certain it is â" then theories of planet formation may have to be adjusted.

Whereas if this thing that is bigger than 8 Jupiters turns out to be something other than a planet, we may have some other theories to adjust. But I, for one, welcome our giant space traveling overlords!

Re:we'd better hope... (1)

prod-you (940679) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033855)

I dunno, I couldn't see any legs dangling off it to be certain it was an Overlord. Perhaps it's just the Queen.

Re:we'd better hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034903)

IF Overlords could fly through space, than why don't zerg players just send them all up there so that we can't attack them with our puny battle cruisers.

Come to think of it, why can't battle cruisers fly through space? stupid game.

Re:we'd better hope... (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035967)

Both of these could fly to space of course, but the take off and accelerating to orbital speed would mean that in the context of a single game session, it'd be same as losing the unit. So, to simulate this, just disband the unit (there was disband in Starcraft, wasn't there?).

Re:we'd better hope... (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034113)

The Astronomical term is a Super Jupiter, which describes a gas giant of four times or larger than Jupiter in our solar system.

A Jupiter sized planet or larger that is under 1 AU orbit from it's star is called a Hot Jupiter, because it will be heated up from it's star's heat.

Astronomers like [uncyclopedia.org] Carl Sagan [uncyclopedia.org] came up with those terms, including billions and billions and billions ever before McDonalds [uncyclopedia.org] copyrighted that term to describe the number of people that get fat or unhealthy from eating at their fast food joints so Carl Sagan came up with a word called Google and Googleplex that popular web search engines stole [uncyclopedia.org] and squatted on those domain names before Carl Sagan could register them.

Re:we'd better hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25036155)

this just screams for a Chuck Norris/Bruce Schneier meme-a-like...

"Carl Sagan counts to a googleplex a google times before breakfast."

"Ever wonder why all the aliens speak English when they first get to Earth? Carl Sagan taught them by whispering into Arecibo."

Old news... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033129)

I've seen plenty of pictures of Earth.

Re:Old news... (3, Funny)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033201)

But everyone knows that the Sun and the planets orbit the earth.

Re:Old news... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034141)

You're one of Gov. Palin's kids, aren't you?

Re:Old news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25036217)

that's Vice Prez Elect to you, short stuff.

Theories of planet formation may have to be adjust (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033141)

I suspect that will be the case for many many decades/centuries, considering a current sample size of 9 +/- planets big enough to wobble their stars enough that we can see with current tech.

I suspect the more we resolve and catalog and the more we get direct observations of planets, the more the theories will change.

Re:Theories of planet formation may have to be adj (0)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033185)

I suspect the more we resolve and catalog and the more we get direct observations of planets, the more the theories will change.

Do you really think so? I wonder if that principle applies to other things too. Like if astronomers keep observing galaxies then theories of galaxy formation will evolve too.

Re:Theories of planet formation may have to be adj (5, Interesting)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034611)

1) In the 1700's some French guy starts a list of objects that are in the sky that resemble comets, but are not. They are assumed to be relatively nearby objects. One has the name M31.

2) In the early 1900's some American guy comes along and looks a little closer at those objects, and finds not only are they not nearby, but they are entire islands of stars, and we live in one of those islands too! And M31 ends up being over 2 million light years away.

3) In the later part of the 20th century, an astronomical space based telescope, discovers the background variations in the left overs of the big bang, that led to the eventual location of these things now called 'galaxies'

Charles Messier, Edwin Hubble, and the COBE satellite would like to have a discussion with you about the scientific method.

In other words, yes. The theories on planet formation will change the larger the sample size gets. Just the same way the awareness and eventual theories of galaxies changed as they were observed more often and became part of a larger sample size - the known visible universe

Re:Theories of planet formation may have to be adj (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035551)

And in the early 21st century, observations at the LHC and a new binocular radio telescope show conclusively that several assumed constants (Hubble constant, gravitational constant, age of universe, etc) were actually way off, and the stars are all really etched into a dome circling the earth about 300 miles up.

First? (4, Interesting)

TopSpin (753) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033153)

This [wikipedia.org] is no longer the "first" directly observed extrasolar planet? What value of "first" is are we using now?

Re:First? (5, Informative)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033191)

Perhaps it's that that star isn't "sun-like"?

Re:First? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033365)

You're right, it isn't. The star in the gp's post is a brown drawf, which does not sustain nuclear fusion of hydrogen. To be accurate, the star in the article is a pre-main sequence star and doesn't primarily depend on the burning of such fusion either.

Re:First? (3, Insightful)

Trogre (513942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033413)

Okay but what about "Blue marble"? That predates this effort, and clearly shows a planet which is known to orbit a sun-like star.

Re:First? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033313)

This [wikipedia.org] is no longer the "first" directly observed extrasolar planet? What value of "first" is are we using now?

2M1207 is a brown dwarf. We have observed other planetary-mass objects orbiting brown dwarfs, but this news story is about the first one orbiting a roughly sun-sized star.

Re:First? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034001)

I'm no expert, in fact I don't follow this stuff closely at all, but it was my understanding that everytime they find a 'planet orbiting another star' it turns out not to actually be a planet. At least everyone I've seen turns out that way after a little while.

Since you reference a wikipedia article, I can only assume that if I am correct, the article is wrong, like many wikipedia entries. However I fully accept that I may be wrong as most of the higher profile wikipedia entries are fairly accurate, which I would expect this one to be.

Just throwing out a possiblity, as I said, I really have no clue.

Re:First? (2, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25036771)

Nope. There have been a few false positives, but there have been plenty of 'confirmed' sightings of extra-solar planets.

MOD PARENT DOWN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035981)

Which part of 'sun like' didn't you understand? The wonderful mod system at work again. Interesting? Not.

Obligatory (2, Funny)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033193)

... that's no moon ...

Re:Obligatory (5, Informative)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033519)

... that's no moon ...

We've already established that. It's a planet.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033633)

Star Wars reference folks. *Woosh*

Re:Obligatory (1)

extrasolar (28341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034543)

Well, maybe. They'll probably come up with some other bogus classification like mega planet or inert star or something.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035133)

That's right, it's a fricking Death Star.
(You missed the Star Wars joke there, but somehow got modded up as Insightful).

Re:Obligatory (0, Redundant)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035175)

... that's no moon ...

We've already established that. It's a planet.

And I think you just established that you totally missed the reference in the original post. Go back watch some of your (hopefully) older DVDs and see if you get the reference :)

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25036333)

Star Wars DVD's can't really be considered "old" can they?

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035467)

whoooooooooshhhh...

Re:Obligatory (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25036095)

that's what they promised to the Plutonians :(

Re:Obligatory (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25036829)

We've already established that. It's a planet.

Tell that to Pluto, your insensitive clod!!!

Re:Obligatory (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033671)

I find your lack of original conversation disturbing...
http://xkcd.com/307/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Obligatory (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035189)

Ok.

That's no planet [wikia.com] ...

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033859)

It's a SPACE STATION.

Too big to be a planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033349)

Wait, what is it called when something is too *big* to be a planet?

Re:Too big to be a planet? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033395)

A brown dwarf. Why do you say it like it should be obvious?

Re:Too big to be a planet? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25033521)

umm... IMO it should be called dwarfoid.

Re:Too big to be a planet? (1)

shadwstalkr (111149) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034243)

Wait, what is it called when something is too *big* to be a planet?

Rush Limbaugh. Har har.

Gemini Telescope and guide stars (5, Informative)

wigaloo (897600) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033371)

The discovery was made using the 8m diameter Gemini Telescope - North [gemini.edu] on Mauna Kea. It's doesn't have Hubble's advantage of being in space, and so a clever approach is employed to eliminate interference from atmospheric turbulence. A laser is used to induce fluorescence in the sodium layer left by meteors up around 80 km altitude. -- this is called a "guide star" -- and adaptive (i.e., deformable) optics in the telescope bring the guide star image into sharp focus, and the rest of the scene with it. A guide star is used for this process rather than an actual star because it is much easier to adaptively image a bright object (which can also be positioned where needed). Such a clear image would otherwise not have been possible.

Re:Gemini Telescope and guide stars (5, Informative)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035179)

Just to flesh this out and offer a few corrections, as someone who works around the AO LGS at Gemini (and Keck):

Tomduck is correct that an adaptive optics (AO) system uses deformable optics to bring a guide star into sharp focus, and the rest of the scene with it. He fails to mention that this process is in no way inherently dependent upon the use of a laser. Indeed, when a bright natural star is close enough to the target to be used, it is in many ways preferable to using the laser. (For one, the brightness of natural stars tends to be pretty constant, and not subject to the usual game of "so, how many watts shy of nominal power are we tonight?" :) So Gemini's AO system, Altair (read all about it here [harvard.edu] ) is quite often used with natural guide stars (NGS).

A NGS can, incidentally, also be used for guiding - keeping the telescope pointed correctly - as its name implies. This isn't the case for a laser guide star (LGS), which in fact has absolutely no use for pointing, since the laser is fastened to, and aligned with, the telescope. It's a horrible misnomer. :( LGS come into play because the field of view of large (8-10m) telescopes is narrow enough that NGS are frequently not visible at the same time as science targets.

There are three large telescopes on Mauna Kea with LGS capabilities - Keck II has an older-technology sodium dye laser (pumped/amped by about six YAGs), Gemini has a solid-state (crystal) laser, and I'm not certain what Subaru has as I haven't worked with them yet. The W.M. Keck Observatory has funding to put a laser on Keck I also, but I'm unsure when it'll be operational. All of the lasers propagate at around 589nm for sodium fluorescence (this is coincidentally about the same frequency put out by the low-pressure sodium streetlights used in the towns on the island, so astronomers can pretty much ignore this frequency).

Each beam is about 8-12W with an objective lens diameter of typically 30-50cm, spreading a little as it goes up. Not enough power to punch holes in stuff, but enough that the FAA requires aircraft spotters to be positioned outside each observatory to make sure they don't blind the pilots of flights between the west coast and Australia/New Zealand. I've done this work sporadically since 2005 at Keck and 2006 at Gemini, so I have tons of pictures and time-lapse video... here's one [lava.net] of the Gemini beam with me ruining the picture by sitting in front of it.

Along with the FAA, AFSC (that's Air Force Space Command, not the American Friends Service Committee) is rather particular about us not shining the bright lights into the sensitive sensors of keyholes and such things. We look up, they look down, etc.

By the way, if there are any Farkers on the Big Island of Hawaii who think this kind of work sounds like fun, it looks like Keck has openings [keckobservatory.org] . It's temp-agency work, and probably the coldest, highest-altitude temp-agency work you'll ever get...

Something to keep in mind (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033377)

If you're of the opinion that we'll only find "life as we know it" on an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star in the habitable zone, then we haven't really got any data on how common their configuration is, so its a complete mystery how many civilizations like ours there are out there. Of course, if you're of the opinion that "as we know it" really isn't that important, then that's not entirely relevant.

Oh, and here's my exoplanet rant [quantumg.net] that I post every time one of these stories hits Slashdot.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033657)

As far as a truly "Earth-like" rocky planet being discovered around a star of spectral classes between F & M type stars, I think it may be a bit longer than 2012 before that can happen.

Mind you, telescope precision and monitoring Doppler variations in radial velocities of stars are improving significantly (where most of these "discoveries" are happening), it would take some very hard precision instruments to be able to detect an "Earth-like" mass object. Smaller planets thus far identified are still at least an order of magnitude larger than the Earth.

We'll see, but predictions like this are hard to make without understanding the technology and knowings its limits. Research of this nature may give rise to some interesting candidates for inter-stellar space probes of the future, but I don't think that is going to happen within my lifetime.

Planetary Science (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033393)

If the imaged object does turn out to be a planet â" and it's not certain it is â" then theories of planet formation may have to be adjusted

Since all of the current theories about planetary formation around stellar objects consist of a statistical sample of one, I'd like to hope that Astro-physicists would be able to come up with some better theories when that sample size is increased.

One thing we do know from stellar observations is that binary or multiple star systems are much more common than solitary stellar systems like we have here around Sol. Even from observation of stellar nurseries it is also apparent that the physical structures that give rise to stars are born in highly complex environments of which our Solar System was likely a rather bland or even "ideal laboratory" example of how planetary systems were created.

Given the distance (330 AU... about 1/10th the same distance as between the Sun and Neptune) and if I were "betting" on what would be found with a planetary probe going to this star system, I think you would find nearly a complete planetary system around this gas giant as well, with this "planet" simply being in the Continuum between O-class blue giant stars and grains of sand.

Of course this observation of discovering a secondary system is based upon a sample size of 4 gas giants in our own solar system that all seem to have their own satellite systems as well. That is more like shooting fish in a barrel to make this sort of prediction.

Seriously, other than a highly simplistic planetary creation model, I fail to see what huge changes in formation theory this will actually make, other than to give more pause to think about how complex the stellar formation process might be.

Re:Planetary Science (5, Insightful)

JackCroww (733340) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033575)

Maybe you made a typo, but Neptune orbits at roughly 30 AU from Sol, making Neptune at 1/10th the distance of the exo-planet in the article. Hence the question of WTF is it doing out so far from its primary? However, if it wasn't a typo on your part, you need to bone up on your basic Solar system facts, and your theory about it being a typical planetary system would be dead wrong.

Re:Planetary Science (2, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033595)

I meant that Neptune was 1/10th the distance as this object. Yeah, I screwed up here. Thanks for pointing that out.

Re:Planetary Science (3, Interesting)

JaimeZX (780523) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033715)

There was an excellent article in a recent issue of Scientific American [sciam.com] that discussed updated theories of planet formation based on not only our solar system, but observations of other systems as well.

The short version, IIRC goes something like this:

* Star forms. The remaining disk around the star consists mainly of grains of dust, which slowly clump together under their own gravity.

* As clumps get bigger, they create a gravitational "wake" of particulates in the vicinity of their orbit. The wake closer to the star orbits faster and therefore its mass provides a "forward pull" on the object, whereas the part of the wake farther out orbits more slowly and provides a "rearward pull" on the object. The disk gets bigger as you go out (geometry!) and therefore there is more material in the outer half of the "wake," so the "rearward pull" is stronger than the foreward pull. This slows the object slightly and causes it to spiral inward towards the star.

* At a certain distance from the star (the "snow line") water ice converts to water vapor and the "rearward pull" on our orbiting object goes away. (I'm still not clear on why this is the case, BTW.) So inward-spiraling objects tend to stop at the snow line, and this is where a gas giant planet is most likely to form.

* Jupiter's wake at the snow line leads to the formation of Saturn as Jupiter's large mass starts throwing nearby things into a higher orbit.

* "Ice giants" like Neptune and Uranus can't grow as big as Jupiter because their local environment is depleted as they formed later than Jupiter & Saturn and mostly benefitted from more throw-offs by Saturn.

So to see an 8-Jupiter-mass gas giant orbiting 330AU from a sunlike star seems extremely unusual and it ought to imply that it was ejected into a higher orbit by something else because there's no reason for it to form there.

Again, IANAastrophysicist or planetary scientist, but I really get off on this stuff. ;)

Re:Planetary Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034023)

I think you misinterpreted what they are saying. Neptune is about 30 AU from the sun. This "planet" is 330 AU in projected distance from the parent star. Most circumstellar disks around young stars are about 200 AU in radius and there is very little mass at large radii, much less than needed to form this object. So, if this object did indeed form from the disk at a radius of 330 AU it's hard to interpret this in the current theoretical framework.

It should also be noted that their derived mass is 0.008 +0.004/-0.001 solar masses. These are 1 sigma errors, so there is still a 33% chance that the true mass could lie outside these errors.
Plus, the brown dwarf/planet limit is roughly drawn at 0.013 solar masses, the deuterium burning limit. In my opinion, this is probably just another brown dwarf.

Also, the mass of this object is in no way measured, it is inferred from the observed spectrum, and bye my eye, the spectral type seems to be somewhat earlier (higher mass) that they are claiming.

On a more political note, the second author on the paper Ray Jayawardhana has a history of overstating scientific results for the purpose of getting press release. He doesn't make false claims, merely overstates the importance.

Re:Planetary Science (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034137)

Since all of the current theories about planetary formation around stellar objects consist of a statistical sample of one, I'd like to hope that Astro-physicists would be able to come up with some better theories when that sample size is increased.

With enough detail and enough volume to have from all stages of the formation perhaps, but since we understand gravity quite well I think simulation is the key here. Observation will tell you something about the realm of possible planets, but I think it would take us a very long time to get accurate models based off observation.

Re:Planetary Science (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25036593)

What we don't know here are the starting conditions that exist within a "typical" stellar nursery, or even what variables there might be in terms of typical stellar systems for metal-rich gaseous clouds (of the kind that create rocky planets like the Earth).

Yeah, we have a pretty good understanding of gravity and even enhanced understanding of subtle variations caused by Relativity thanks to Einstein (something often missing from simulations due to complexity of the calculations), but it is these additional variables that are the huge unknowns.

I dare say that until we have additional observational information here, we can't even come up with a good idea of what these variables might even be in the first place.... although I think it may be possible to come up with a theory that can explain some of these variables and assess their relative importance in terms of what we ultimately see in terms of star formation and their planetary systems.

Just off the top of my head, here are some variables to consider:

  • Gas cloud density - just how much "stuff" was in the cloud when the planetary system was being formed?
  • Temperature - How hot was the cloud when the star/planets were being formed?
  • Stellar density - How many stars that were formed earlier (perhaps from other gas clouds even) are "near" the nursery when the star was being formed and what was their geometric configuration?

I'm sure other variables could be considered as well, and all of these could have a profound impact on planetary system formation. My point is that we are missing information right now to even create a viable model beyond the most simplistic examples that explain just our own little solar system.

Re:Planetary Science (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035203)

Can it just be that due to the gravitational pull of some other system (say another star which went past close enough) pulled the planet out?

Not a planet at all. (3, Funny)

lowy (91366) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033433)

If you look closely you can clearly see that it's just the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) in "outer orbit" doing a routing scientific study. Nothing to see here, move along.

Re:Not a planet at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034867)

A routing scientific study? Does this mean that the Sun-like Star is actually the home Star system of Bridging Network Devices and other Routers?

What is this System Called? CISCO?

Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035355)

...[I]t's just the USS Enterprise...doing a routing scientific study.

I guess that whole "Internet in Space" thing is really starting to pan out, huh? Cisco must be thrilled.

Just for clarity? (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033711)

If it's 11 times Jupiter's mass, and we're a fraction of Jupiter's mass, how is that planet "Like us"? Gravity's gonna matter, ya know...

Neptune? (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033917)

roughly 11 times Neptuneâ(TM)s average distance from the sun..

As much as I'd like to quantify things in reference to Neptune, isn't there a planet your readers are more likely to associate with?

Re:Neptune? (1)

MichaelTheDrummer (1130657) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034405)

Yeah there is, but saying it orbits at a distance of 330AU, or 330 times Earth's average distance from the sun doesn't really help. How many football fields is that?

Re:Neptune? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25034719)

How many football fields is that?

A what field? How many Libraries of Congress is that? Is that metric or imperial?

Re:Neptune? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035515)

Sure, it's already in the summary:
"The giant planet, the mass of 8 Jupiters, orbits its star at 330 AU, or 11 times the distance to Neptune's orbit."
The planet is 330 times further away from its star than the Earth is from Sol.

Seriously though, Neptune is the outer-most planet in our system, hence to use it as a reference when something is really far out.

I am sorry, summary is not entirely correct (1)

Fudge Factor 3000 (572132) | more than 5 years ago | (#25033989)

The star the planet is orbiting around is not a sun-like star. It is a K star, which is cooler and smaller in size than the Sun. I would argue that it is a planetary object near a star, period. It may not even be orbiting the damn thing. You would have to wait a few years to see if the star and the planetary object have common proper motion.

Why do we think we KNOW how it works? (-1, Offtopic)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034165)

Maybe my question is wrong in the first place.

But ... why is it we always seem to think we 'KNOW' how things work? You hear all of this 'it works this way' crap in science, only a year later to hear 'oh it doesn't really work that way, we were right but not really right and now we're definately right' ... until the next time we're wrong.

I'm guessing that its more of media than scientists that cause the problem, but I've had arguments with plenty of 'educated' people who are supposed to know about the subject matter over some minor detail that didn't fit right in my mind and they swear up and down that its a solid theory, and eventually, on many of the topics it seems that they weren't really right.

I know its not because I'm all knowing, so why is it that this happens so often?

Why do we think that we KNOW how planets form? We've never seen it. We don't even know of someplace that its happening to right now (or at least that we can view right now, light speed/time to earth and all that). I realize we can make observations and some educated guesses ... but they are just guesses in the end, until we actually witness it.

It seems to me that its very bad science to assume, just as an example, that carbon dating is rock solid for any length of time since we started using it. Sure, it probably is, but when you start talking about using it to date something that occurred before the begining of recorded history, we have no idea if some other external event could have happened that screwed up the whole process, and many others that we use to validate carbon dating.

Where is my line of logic wrong? I'm losing faith in science, or rather, scientists. Its turning into a bunch of theories by people who have such tunnel vision that they can not accept that there is a possibility that they don't have a complete picture. Are so many of them really that arrogant, or am I just getting the wrong picture due to bad information as it makes it to me?

I've met a few that seem to share my opinion, but since it seems to be a minority I'm skeptical in my own thoughts.

Re:Why do we think we KNOW how it works? (1)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034315)

I think your line of thinking is wrong based on this statement of yours:

"You hear all of this 'it works this way' crap in science, only a year later to hear 'oh it doesn't really work that way, we were right but not really right and now we're definately right'"

You rarely see widely accepted theories in science simply replaced. Instead they are refined. When a theory is widely accepted it is because it fits the evidence. If new evidence leads to a new theory than that new theory also has to explain the evidence that the prior theory did.

If you take planetary formation for example, it's a lot more then guesses. There is decades and decades of evidence that fit a widely accepted model. If this turned out to be something special, it would likely lead to a refinement of the current theory. There's no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The current theory fits the evidence. More then likely they'll find that either this isn't actually a planet orbiting the star or it's orbit is highly elliptical so you're jumping the gun anyways.

Personally, I think you're acting like what science knows today goes away tomorrow. And that isn't accurate. What science knows today stays. They just might know more tomorrow to make their theories even more detailed and accurate.

The underlying models actually change a lot (1)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035061)

What science knows today stays. They just might know more tomorrow to make their theories even more detailed and accurate.

That's not really true, strictly speaking, because "more detailed and accurate" sounds like mere refinement, and that's not really what happens. More accurately, tomorrow's theories are broadly consistent with those of yesterday (they have to be, because they need to support the same observations), but the underlying models can be utterly different from today to tomorrow.

For example, there is no inherent continuity between classical physics and quantum mechanics, beyond the fact that they both predict similar behaviour in their area of overlap. The underlying models are utterly different. The new one isn't just a refinement of the older one, but a fundamental change in underlying concept, and they just converge to yield roughly the same predictions.

This happens in all areas of science to different degrees, but especially in physics and chemistry where we don't *really* know the reality down at that level, but instead we merely talk about the behaviour of the elements in our model de jour, ie. the atoms and electrons and quarks and so on. We don't even know what mass is, so where there used to be empty space we conjure up quantum vacuum and Higgs bosons etc. The predictions we make remain broadly similar, but the models are not.

In other words, our models do not express continuity of understanding at all. That's under continuous change, not refinement. What does get more and more refined is the fit that our changing models make with our observations of reality. The correlations between theories and measurements get ever better, but "what science knows today" definitely "goes away tomorrow", because that knowledge is expressed through our models.

And that's what makes Science so interesting. If all we did was to refine our understanding rather than totally revise our theoretical models, Science would become more boring with each passing year, but there's no chance of that happening at all. :-)

Re:The underlying models actually change a lot (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#25035745)

While underlying models do change (Caloric fluid for example), quantum and classical physics are a bad example of this. For the things classical physics deals with, it is still perfectly valid, still taught, and still heavily used. Quantum answers questions left by classical physics, and it gives rules in places where classical does not apply, but quantum physics is just as useless for predicting ballistic trajectories. It's like saying America's Geography replaced Europe's.

Re:The underlying models actually change a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25036349)

For the things classical physics deals with, it is still perfectly valid, still taught, and still heavily used. Quantum answers questions left by classical physics, and it gives rules in places where classical does not apply

You missed the point though. Quantum mechanics applies to *everything*, not just in the places where classical physics falls down. So while classical physics is still useful, we know that it doesn't represent the actual nature of reality, because QM does that to the best of our knowledge, and they're not the same. QM provides predictions that are much closer to our observations, despite QM being very cumbersome to apply to classical settings.

QM represents our new and substantially deeper understanding of reality through an entirely different mathematical model (not just by refining a few rough edges in the old model), and it applies in all cases, overriding the old classical theory entirely but of course yielding results that are consistent with it at the macro scale. But that consistency of prediction doesn't mean that QM is an improved version of classical theory. The two have almost no similarity at all to each other, despite yielding results that are very close in many situations.

So no, classical theory has long failed the test of being a working theory of science, despite our regular use of its approximate formulisms which are based on a knowingly mistaken model of reality. Classical theory is simply WRONG, despite being as useful now as it always was. We now know that it's an incorrect theory which only roughly generates results in the right ballpark. And no doubt the same will happen to QM in time.

A single reality can't be represented by two different theories simultaneously unless they're duals of each other, but classical and QM are not duals. Instead, QM reduces to classical theory through statistical averaging, and in that process information is lost. You can still use the old theory if the information loss does not matter, but you can't pretend that classical theory still represents our understanding of how the universe works. It does NOT! It has been superseded by the radically different QM as our working theory which has still not been disproven.

The old classical model has now become just a highly useful engineering approximation, but it can no longer be called a valid theory of science since it has been trivially disproven at both ends of the scale (and even in the middle given good instruments), while QM continues to be valid at all scales tested so far. (We don't know how to merge QM with gravity, but that failure is one of theory, not a failure of a testable prediction of QM.)

"Yields fairly good results" and "Is a valid/working theory of science" are entirely different things, and should not be confused. The scientific method turns a previously working theory into an invalid theory when the predictions of the theory are observed to be false, and that's what happened to classical. The fact that classical can still deliver very usable results in a subset of cases doesn't change that. Phoenix would not be sitting safely on Mars if we had relied on classical theory, because it's wrong. ;-)

So what planets have we seen (2, Insightful)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#25034401)

orbiting stars that are totally unlike the sun?

Re:So what planets have we seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035099)

Planets orbiting pulsars?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulsar_planet [wikipedia.org]

Re:So what planets have we seen (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035241)

The majority of extra-solar planets so far discovered have been massive, extremely close orbitting bodies; so called 'hot-jupiters', usually 10-20x the mass of our own Jupiter, so they're verging more on being Brown Dwarves than planets.

The reason for this is that the primary way of discovering an extra solar planet is by measuring the orbital perburbation that the planet causes on it's parent sun - the star seems to wobble or oscillate as it tracks. The secondary way is to measure the change in instensity of the star as a (large) planet passes in front of it relative to us and occludes it.

Smaller planetary systems, or a planet further from the star means less orbital wobble. Less orbital wobble means that it falls beneath the resolution of the instrumentation in use. Gets lost in the noise basically.

NB - Orbital wobble is most observable if the stellar disc is perpendicular to our observation. In contrast, occlusion only works if the orbital disc is directly in line with our line of observation. Cases where the disc may be offset by 5-15 degrees will be commensurately harder to detect since the observed wobble is a lot lower. (this is potentially a majority of systems, since our galaxy is basically planar and star system formation could echo this planarity of orientation)

Initial planetary discoveries were big, bright stars with massive, close-orbitting planets because these are the easiest to distinguish from noise. As we get better instrumentation (primarily orbital telescopes or Very Large Arrays with better noise elimination algoritims) our ability to 'see' smaller, more earth-like planets improves.

We're still a long way from seeing an Earth Equivalent, but seeing an orbital body around an 'earth-like sun' is a major step forward.

this could be the death star....oh no! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035457)

can some one contact luke please?

Kevin123149@hotmail.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25035471)

It could very well be a Star!

i am waiting for an image like this (1)

hibji (966961) | more than 5 years ago | (#25036027)

http://z.about.com/d/space/1/0/c/e/earth_moon.jpg [about.com]

of an extrasolar planet. I think it would be amazing and hopefully spur people's imaginations to see beyond themselves.

Any astronomers out there care to speculate on the feasibility getting an image like this?

Re:i am waiting for an image like this (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25036271)

Getting an image like that from a planet orbiting different star would require "collecting photons" for a long long time. Surface details would take even longer, as the rotation of the planet would need to be taken into account too. And it would always be an image of a single planet, and perhaps a separate image for a moon orbiting it, but getting them in the same picture would be just "photoshopping" the images together.

And the image would not really be a photo or a snapshot, but instead made "artificially" by combining photons received over long time. It would be more like a globe map of the planets surface, and then you could render an image of the planet from any angle, or even make a physical map globe.

Sort of like there are "fake" images of a busy city that are void of people. They can be made by taking a lot of pictures from same spot, cutting people out of them (leaving holes in the image), and then combining enough of these images so that all holes can be filled. Except here you wouldn't have images with holes, you would have "images" with just one pixel of color each, and then you'd combine enough of these to get a full picture.

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