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Exoplanet Found In Old Hubble Image

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the old-but-new dept.

NASA 54

Kristina at Science News writes "A new way to process images reveals an extrasolar planet that had been hiding in an 11-year-old Hubble picture. After ground-based telescopes found three planets orbiting the young star HR 8799, a team took that information and reprocessed some 11-year-old Hubble Space Telescope images. Voila. There was one of the three planets, captured by Hubble but not visible until new knowledge could see the picture in a fresh light. The technique could reveal hidden treasures in many archived telescope images." For reference, the first exoplanet to be (knowingly) directly imaged was 2M1207_b in late 2004.

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54 comments

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27021761)

Grammatically correct first post. I fail it not!

Look what Hubble spotted! Thems biguns!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022021)

  http: //images.celebritymoviearchive.com/members/thumbs/b/bM3410-MimiRogers@TheDoorInTheFloor.jpg

Not sure if that's exoplanet but it's got quite a terrain Copy, fix the colon space, and paste in browser. The archive won't let slashdot referrals in.

hindsight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27021837)

is 20/20

when you see it, you'll shit bricks? (-1, Troll)

citizenr (871508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021843)

is this one of those
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2352/2263155065_40878c77d5_o.jpg [flickr.com]
situations?
or more like 'Virgin Mary' toast where you have to imagine what you should see and then your brain lies to you and it appears?

GP's link NSFW (-1, Offtopic)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021889)

...'nuff said.

I wonder ... (2, Insightful)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021865)

... how many other unknown things are hiding in those old images.

Re:I wonder ... (1)

ImYourVirus (1443523) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021895)

Probably just the secrets to the universe... dun dun dunnn...

Re:I wonder ... (0, Redundant)

Highen (1483663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27025033)

LOL

Re:I wonder ... (5, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022081)

... how many other unknown things are hiding in those old images.

Probably millions. It's called 'precovery' - very often, once you discover something new, you'll find that it has already been photographed half a dozen times and been completely ignored. Consider the planet Neptune, discovered in 1846: it turns out that it had already been observed by Galileo, twice, in the course of his studies of Jupiter. He mistook it for a star, although he noted that it appeared to move very slightly relative to other stars.

Re:I wonder ... (3, Informative)

jschen (1249578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022951)

Probably lots. In all fields of science, major discoveries often do not get credited to the first person (or instrument, in this case) to observe something. The credit goes to the first person who both recognizes the significance of what they observed and shares with the world. Newton was not the first to observe objects falling down. He was the first to truly understand the scientific significance of that observation. Fleming was not the first to observe the antibacterial properties of Penicillum mold (which led to the development of penicillin). He wasn't even the first to document it. But he was the first to follow up on it in a major way.

Re:I wonder ... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27024493)

... how many other unknown things are hiding in those old images.

Hey, I found Waldo!

Re:I wonder ... (1)

InterestingX (930362) | more than 5 years ago | (#27026489)

Where's Wall-E

Re:I wonder ... (1)

WeblionX (675030) | more than 5 years ago | (#27026707)

It can only peer into the past, not into the future.

blinders (5, Interesting)

gobbo (567674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021887)

Given that we only perceive a tiny slice of the electromagnetic spectrum, and rely on baryonic matter to map things out, and we're just starting to get good instrumentation, is this any surprise?

I'm regularly frustrated by the subtle hubris of completeness that underlies so many scientific assertions. It's as though we continually forget that science is fundamentally provisional, and that we're just hominids who only recently got refrigeration.

The nice thing about new techniques like this is that it points out that we are always missing something.

It's like the basic flaw in Fermi's paradox: why is it so hard to believe that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for where everyone is, and we just haven't thought of it yet because it isn't obvious to hominids? Ockham's razor suggests for most things that we just don't have the answers, so keep looking, but for Fate's sake look away from the savannah-brain you're using.

Re:blinders (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021977)

"The nice thing about new techniques like this is that it points out that we are always missing something. It's like the basic flaw in Fermi's paradox..."

There is no "flaw" in Fermi's paradox, it's an observation of an inconsistency designed to make one think about what we are missing.

Re:blinders (1)

gobbo (567674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27027805)

I stand corrected, I meant the flaw in the way it's used.

Re:blinders (4, Informative)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022105)

We can only perceive a tiny slive of the EM spectrum, but we've built telescopes capable of maping the night sky from the radio of the CMB to the high energy gamma ray bursts, and everything in between

Re:blinders (1)

gobbo (567674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27028401)

My point is that we still interpret the data with minds shaped by our limited perspective... the telescopes may be better than last year's, but there you go assuming a kind of completeness.

The map is not the territory.

Re:blinders (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022233)

You must be thinking of something other than Ockham's razor. In the spirit of what "Ockham's razor" is, it's generally been simplified to, "The simplest explanation that covers all the facts is usually the best.", and a bunch of other similar variations.

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

Re:blinders (4, Insightful)

Shark (78448) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022869)

One of the major problems with Ockham's razor is a tendency that we have to assume that we have all the facts when we apply it.

Otherwise, it's a great tool.

Re:blinders (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27023045)

Oh, I completely agree. If you don't have the necessary tools for something, and someone else does, Occam's razor can be wielded more viably for the person who has those necessary tools.

Re:blinders (1)

gobbo (567674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27028443)

Yes: that wonderful aphorism suggests to me that the simplest explanation is usually that we don't have all the facts that need covering, and even that the few facts that we do have are subtly or grossly misleading, in the end.

Re:blinders (2, Insightful)

andereandre (1362563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022309)

I'm regularly frustrated by the subtle hubris of completeness that underlies so many scientific assertions.

I don't think science is to blame for that, but the oversimplified reporting of it. No serious scientist assumes completeness.

Re:blinders (1)

gobbo (567674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27028465)

What do you mean by 'serious'? I've met quite a few people who've published repeatedly before their peers, are well-respected experts or devoted lab rats, and show clear signs of bloody-minded reductionist or even religious dogmatism... at least in public. I rather think it has more to do with funding structures and a human weakness for religious thinking than journalism.

Re:blinders (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27027419)

I'm regularly frustrated by the subtle hubris of completeness that underlies so many scientific assertions. It's as though we continually forget that science is fundamentally provisional, and that we're just hominids who only recently got refrigeration.

See sushi science and hamburger science [titech.ac.jp] . First published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, the author expounds on his idea that Western scientists tend to be reductionists, trying to fit all the observations into simple theories, and Eastern scientists tend to just accept results for what they are, without as much generalization. It's not that one way or the other is necessarily better; they're complimentary methods of looking at something, and both viewpoints have their place.

Gemini planet imager (5, Interesting)

worip (1463581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021891)

Keep them coming! One more place to point the Gemini planet imager in 2010 http://gpi.berkeley.edu/index.html [berkeley.edu]
Once we can do direct imaging, we can sample the planet spectra, and determine the atmosphere, composition, etc.

Re:Gemini planet imager (1)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021951)

Then all we need to do is master interstella travel !

Re:Gemini planet imager (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022239)

Well, step 3 is obviously profit. Thanks for filling in step 2. I've always wondered what it was...

Re:Gemini planet imager (1, Interesting)

fmobus (831767) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022553)

Not really. Interestellar travel, is hardly rewarding from an economic standpoint. See Krugman's work [princeton.edu] .

Re:Gemini planet imager (3, Interesting)

fmobus (831767) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022579)

Not really. Interestellar travel, is hardly rewarding from an economic standpoint. SeeKrugman's work [princeton.edu] .

Re:Gemini planet imager (1, Insightful)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022701)

There are things more important than the pretty bits of paper you Americans cling to.
I'd thought the past few months would have shown you this. Profit does not always mean money.

Re:Gemini planet imager (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27023081)

I dunno, I'd think there'd be huge profits to be made from owning a planet and all of it's resources. I could be wrong.

Re:Gemini planet imager (1)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 5 years ago | (#27023505)

That's assuming you have the equipment to get at them and process the raw materials, or anybody else there who could trade with you for the right to get at them.

Re:Gemini planet imager (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27027369)

Far be it from me to deride a study on charging interest on near-light speed Trantor-to-Earth shipping, but that badly scanned copy of Krugman's 1978 paper is hilarious.

"I have not even touched on the fascinating possibilities of interstellar finance, where spot and forward exchange markets will have to be supplemented by conditional present markets. Those of us working in this field are still a small band, but we know that the Force is with us."

This guy should play Eve-Online. He'd like it.

Also, I wonder if they could apply some of these fancy planet-resolving image processing algorithms to a badly scanned pdf? After reading one of those, my eyes hurt.

Re:Gemini planet imager (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27023389)

from sig:
A picture is worth exactly 1024 words.

That may be, but even a simple picture generally costs several dozen more k than a plaintext description.

Content is related to topic. Sort of.

Its a predator planet! (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 5 years ago | (#27021987)

Its camouflage just broke for a minute!. I say we leave it well alone!

Getting new info with old data (1)

French31 (1311051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022015)

1- Gather data
2- Analyse data
3- ???
4- Profit!
5- New processing methods are found
6- Go to 2

What's the new method like? (3, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022191)

TFA says it works by "modeling" the distribution of the star's light halo and subtracting that modeled glow from the actual image. So basically it's just like fitting a radial distribution on the star and subtracting, am I right? We couldn't do that ten years ago? I hope there's more to it, and if there is, I'd be interested to hear more about it.

Re:What's the new method like? (2, Informative)

ogre7299 (229737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022637)

You have the basics right. But it gets complicated because anything in the light path between the star light going into the telescope until it hits the detector is going to contribute to the point spread function, or point response function. Which is basically the diffraction pattern made by a point source on the focal plane. Hubble's PSF can be a bit more complex because of the corrective optics in each instrument.

You are right that we could do this 10 years ago, but we probably have a much better model for the point spread function now than we did then.

Re:What's the new method like? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27024365)

I see, so that's actually more like deconvolution (using a simulated PSF) than subtraction?

Re:What's the new method like? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022751)

The algorithm - called LOCI - is indeed slightly more sophisticated ;-)
You can find more in the paper by Lafrenière et al. [uchicago.edu] ( 2007, ApJ 660, 770-780)

This is an old astronomical technique (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022235)

Whenever anything interesting is discovered, people go to old surveys, old plates (the Harvard Sky Patrol from the 1930's tend to be especially useful) and old catalogs to see if people have seen it before. This is routinely done for asteroids, for example.

This is how Galileo's observations of Neptune in 1612 [dioi.org] and images of the quasar 3C273 from the 1890's were found, for example.

Re:This is an old astronomical technique (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022323)

Of course, the really cool things about such prediscovery observations of a planet is that they will really help to nail down the orbit.

Hmmm... (4, Funny)

DamienRBlack (1165691) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022491)

This is so ironic -- we just found Hubble in our old exoplanet image. You little humans have come so far. You should be proud, at least for the next 40 hours...

Sincerely,
The Hostile Aliens

Re:Hmmm... (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27028133)

No problem, I'll be here all day.

Picture (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022681)

O
  .

Nice work, but this is kind of like cheating... (1)

going_the_2Rpi_way (818355) | more than 5 years ago | (#27023443)

... since knowing there's something there provides additional information that can be used to calibrate the extraction routine.

but not visible until new knowledge could see the picture in a fresh light.

This says it all. In fact, you could create a much simpler extraction technique consisting of a black box around the known item that meets this same standard. Can the new extraction technique do more than this? That, apparently, remains to be seen.

Re:Nice work, but this is kind of like cheating... (1)

smellotron (1039250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27025849)

Think about it like NP-Complete problems. If you don't have the answer, it's probably going to take exponential resources to calculate it. If you have a possible answer, it only takes polynomial time to verify the correctness of the answer. While any prediscovery may not provide any new information, it will strengthen the validity of the existing information.

Not telescope images (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27024211)

telescopic images

Theoretical Quantum Physics (0, Offtopic)

silentsentinel (1067234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27024245)

What's the best way to get into the field? Hah. Open ended question I know, but I've recently felt this stuff is a field I could work in that I might... actually enjoy.

The problem is, I don't want to go in the wrong direction and take a bunch of junk courses that have no pertinence to my end goal, or take a bunch of stuff that someone will later tell me doesn't count toward a proper degree.

I'm 25, almost 26. I never got a degree in Comp Sci because I knew, deep down, that I wouldn't find enjoyment in any of the dominant arenas of computer work (even tho I'm well versed in them, and everyone always said "go get your computer science degree!") I just felt wasting the money wasn't worth it, while everyone else saw no err in throwing money at something they weren't sure about. (Of the 6 or 7 people I know that got degrees in Comp Sci, the only one actually enjoying the field is one guy who didn't go to school for it at all. The rest are doing nothing relating to computers, and most feel they wasted their time [and $].)

Well now I have an idea of what I actually want to do, but I don't know what route to take.

Would one generally just get their Associates Degree first and go from there, or is there a better, more tailored route one could take?

Thanks for any input from the Slashdot crowd.

Re:Theoretical Quantum Physics (1)

wwfarch (1451799) | more than 5 years ago | (#27024475)

If you plan to get into physics as a career you should be aware that a PhD is practically mandatory. I've known many people that got their Bachelor's degree in physics and found it absolutely impossible to find a job. Even with a PhD there's no guarantee you'll land a job. Physics is highly competitive and ultimately low paying.

That being said, the above was just to make sure you're aware that it will be hard work and that you should really investigate the opportunities before jumping into this.

My recommendation would be to get your bachelor's degree in physics first with a focus on quantum physics. Once you're ready to begin your PhD find professors working in theoretical quantum physics and apply to the schools they teach at. You should also make sure that the professor has adequate funding or you may have a very difficult time getting your research approved (probably not as big a deal for theoretical physics).

CAn we keep it then? (1)

madcat2c (1292296) | more than 5 years ago | (#27024757)

The Hubble telescope that is...

Imaging algorithm texts? (1)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27027127)

Dopeyish question, but are there any comprehensive or seminal texts dealing with the field of imaging (image resolution improvement) algorithms? This does not have to be limited to astronomy or still graphics.

As a side note, I find it kind of frustrating that tools like photoshop/gimp exist, and yet there doesn't appear to be texts dedicated towards using them to help resolve images that would otherwise not be apparent.

This is the kind of thing SETI should be doing... (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27028495)

More interesting would be searching for unusual things, such as unexplained changes in a stars spectrum or luminosity. What might cause such a thing? A civilization playing around with things like a dyson sphere.
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