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Lowest Mass Exoplanet Ever Directly Imaged. Probably.

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the hottest-vacation-spot dept.

Space 43

The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers announced today that they have taken a direct image of the lowest mass exoplanet ever seen. HD 95086 b has a mass about 4 to 5 times that of Jupiter, and orbits a star 300 light years away that is slightly more massive and hotter than the Sun. The planet is not 100% confirmed, but it appears very likely to be real. If so, it's a hot gas giant, still cooling from its formation less than 20 million years ago. The picture, taken in the infrared, clearly shows the planet, making it one of fewer than a dozen such planets seen in actual telescopic images."

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43 comments

Probably pretty cold (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902973)

If you were to urinate on such a planet, you would likely find yourself with frosty piss.

Re:Probably pretty cold (2)

huge (52607) | about a year ago | (#43902995)

It's cool to find one, but it isn't cold. From TFA:

It’s massive, so it’s almost certainly a gas giant like Jupiter, and it’s hot, probably about 730 C (1350 F) at the tops of its clouds.

Re:Probably pretty cold (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#43903063)

To me the sad part is unless we can find some way around that pesky relativity thing this is probably as close as we are ever gonna get to it. If you look at a pic showing our position in the milky way we really are in the ass end of town with all the really cool stuff so far away from us it would take a trip longer than humans have existed just to go to the center.

maybe its just me but as someone who grew up watching Star Trek and Lost In Space every time they find a new planet i remember that we'll never ever get to see it in person and it just bums me out.

Re:Probably pretty cold (4, Informative)

jdagius (589920) | about a year ago | (#43903305)

> ... sad part ...

No need to be sad. Increasing effective aperture size of the telescope increases its resolving power. The imaging element doesn't have to be a single mirror or lens, but can consist of an array of elements scattered over a large area. Tricky part is getting all of the elements in phase agreement. Also doesn't have to be visible light. We are already 'imaging' surfaces of planets with synthetic aperture radar, operating on the same principle.

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

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

So imagine a much larger optical array network, many miles in diameter, for imaging the surfaces of these exoplanets.

Re:Probably pretty cold (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43905853)

You didn't read his post, did you? He's sad we can't travel there, not that we can't get a picture of it.

Re:Probably pretty cold (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#43910305)

Thanks, for those of us who grew up on Sci-Fi and Carl Sagan being shown all these incredible places we can never reach is like taking a starving man and showing him pictures of incredible meals, all it does is slap us in the face with the fact that thanks to relativity we will most likely never go beyond our tiny little solar system.

This is why I've started to actively avoid articles on new exoplanets and the like, life can be depressing enough without having someone constantly show you incredible places you can never get to.

Re:Probably pretty cold (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903315)

Being stuck in the outskirts of the unfashionable arm of the milky way does reduce our chances of being wiped out by gamma ray bursts, black holes etc though. You wouldn't want to live near most of the "interesting" parts of the galaxy.

Sublight self-replicating probes could explore the galaxy for us (eventually), although without FTL comms it would largely be a one-way message to any other intelligent races out there.

Re:Probably pretty cold (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43907183)

You will never get to see it, but we as a species might. We probably already have all the technology we'd need to build a world ship; we just need a promising place to go.

Re:Probably pretty cold (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43907707)

And a way to get rid of all those people who crop up on these stories blathering about how since humanity is the worst thing in the universe ever, it's our moral responsibility to stay on this planet until we achieve perfection.

Re:Probably pretty cold (1)

Deflagro (187160) | about a year ago | (#43915039)

I guess humans will be the voyeurs of the universe. Our telescopes will get better so we can watch those sexy aliens taking sonic showers or something.

No wonder everyone is avoiding our little space neighborhood. :)

Re:Probably pretty cold (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916245)

Never ask scientists what future science will be like. Scientists spend all their time working within the current understanding of science, the best future science is always a little outside our current understanding.

We already have two distinct models for FTL that work within relativity, and we know of situations where relativity doesn't exactly apply. NASA is building a warp drive based on one of these models.

If we survive the next century we will be a space empire. Pack your bags :)

Re:Probably pretty cold (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about a year ago | (#43903211)

Given that it orbits a star that's 300 light years away, it's probably still pretty cold! That's one huge orbit.

Re:Probably pretty cold (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#43903329)

Well. Someone has to do it, I'll do it: to point out to you that the 300 light years are not the planetary orbit's radius, but the distance between Earth and that other planetary system. Tsheesh.

Re:Probably pretty cold (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about a year ago | (#43905497)

Well. Someone has to do it, I'll do it: to point out to you that the 300 light years are not the planetary orbit's radius, but the distance between Earth and that other planetary system. Tsheesh.

Indeed. Plus the article clearly states that as well. Talking about poor reading comprehension, hahaha :)

Re:Probably pretty cold (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905959)

Tsheesh? I would say Twhoosh, but to be fair it was a pretty poorly executed joke.

Re:Probably pretty cold (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903003)

In an atmosphere that crushes carbon into diamonds, pissing ice is probably the least of your worries, (which you wouldnt, pressure and gas laws and such).

Why a hot gas planet? (2)

LaughingRadish (2694765) | about a year ago | (#43903071)

A lot of these hot supermassive gas giants seem to be extremely young. I wonder what that says about planetary development. Do they lose mass after a billion or two years?

Re:Why a hot gas planet? (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43903173)

I'm not an expert, so ignore me if one shows up; but my suspicion would be that they cool down enough that we can't see them anymore: You'd get a lot of heat, initially, when the planet coalesces; but if it isn't massive enough to ignite fusion and become a star, it'll just keep bleeding radiation into space until it reaches whatever equilibrium temperature the intensity and location of its local star provide for. As they get colder, their output gets weaker, until it gets to the point where our instruments are insufficiently sensitive to distinguish it from the background(unless it passes in front of its star, which has allowed us to indirectly infer the existence of smaller objects that we can't see directly).

Re:Why a hot gas planet? (1)

Gription (1006467) | about a year ago | (#43904103)

Kepler works by detecting the dimming of the star as the planet transits across it. Size, not radiation, is the key.

Re:Why a hot gas planet? (1)

scuzzlebutt (517123) | about a year ago | (#43905409)

Is Kepler still working?

Re:Why a hot gas planet? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905895)

Is Kepler still working?

No, he died back in 1630

Re:Why a hot gas planet? (1)

BranMan (29917) | about a year ago | (#43907249)

He's dead? I didn't even know he was sick!

  (sorry, couldn't resist)

Re:Why a hot gas planet? (1)

RavenousRhesus (2683045) | about a year ago | (#43905021)

It's very likely in a planetary system for large bodies to collide. Now, to aid in the planet formation process, those large chunks stick (mostly) together; but, with so many bodies orbiting the star, there will inevitably be some planet-sized bodies that either get decimated by these impacts, lose large masses (see: Earth's Moon) from these impacts, or have their orbits altered and begin a spiral of either death towards their star or loneliness out of their solar system.

Another fair question is how many moons do these planets have? How much is that blob we seen in our telescopes made to seem larger by moons, possibly dozens, orbiting that planet?

Re:Why a hot gas planet? (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about a year ago | (#43905729)

A lot of these hot supermassive gas giants seem to be extremely young. I wonder what that says about planetary development. Do they lose mass after a billion or two years?

It is suspect that stars lose planets during their evolution - either they collide or plunge into their fiery fathers, or get slingshot to hell. Even our own solar system is suspect (or rather is known by inference) to have had more planets and planetoids that what it had in the past.

So what this could mean is that the more readily observable neighborhood with our current technology is composed of younger suns with younger, hotter gas giants. Observable =/= Existing. More precisely Existing > Observable. Heck the entire cosmos is possibly infinitely larger than the also infinite cosmos that is observable now (or that will ever be observable to us from this point if we were to last until the end of the cosmos itself.)

I suspect that as we improve our technology with better optics we will see more of the neighborhood on more mature systems, meaning colder planets, asteroid belts, and perhaps smaller planets. Then the picture will look more like a middle age high school reunion of cold planets and mature stars, as opposed to a frat party full of hot bodies (no pun intended, or maybe:P)

Heck, one day, possibly soon we will have the technology and economics to slingshot a shitload of powerful space telescopes and radio telescopes across the solar system, or better, on a trans-Neptunian orbit and/or above the elliptic. All capable of scanning through the entire spectrum, radio waves, IR all the way to gamma rays. All working semi-autonomously and aggregated in discrete networks with master controlling satellites doing more intelligent data sniffing. The master controllers and individual satellites all sending raw and aggregated/synthesized data back to Sol III.

There, their carbon-based overlords will surely be able to even peek past the atmosphere of exo-planets. Then the paparazzi will be able to take pics of Epsilon Eridani's version of the Kardashian (yeah, tackiness is a universal constant.)

Move over hadoop! Distributed Computing and Big Data on a cosmic scale!!!

Yo mamma so fat (5, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#43903075)

She can be directly imaged from 300 light years away.

Re:Yo mamma so fat (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903119)

_Yo_ mamma so fat, she can only be seen by her Hawking radiation.

Re:Yo mamma so fat (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903171)

_Yo_ mamma so fat, she can only be seen by her Hawking radiation.

Well, be that as it may, at least she's trying to lose mass.

Re:Yo mamma so fat (1)

auric_dude (610172) | about a year ago | (#43903125)

Hey, did you know that Hot Fudge Sundae falls on a Tuesdae this month?

Re:Yo mamma so fat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903285)

How topical. I'm currently reading that book.

Lowest mass? (1)

cute_orc (2911555) | about a year ago | (#43903159)

What do they mean by lowest mass? Mass of Jupiter is 317 times the mass of earth and the planet they found has a mass 3 to 4 times that of earth.

Re:Lowest mass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903165)

for an exoplanet

Re:Lowest mass? (3, Informative)

Cenan (1892902) | about a year ago | (#43903183)

Directly observed - this planet has been imaged. Most of the confirmed planets from the Kepler mission are inferred from the dip in luminosity the parent star exhibits when the planet transitions across it, as viewed from Earth, or we can infer that there are planets/binary partner if a star "wobbles". Direct images of exo-planets are rare, even this one a mere 300 LY away is still only a tiny blip on the screen.

Re:Lowest mass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905063)

Bah. Inferring it's there is just admitting you don't really know. Like these crazy scientists "inferring" that evolution is taking place when they've never seen it.

Re:Lowest mass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905643)

And there are hundreds of "missing links." Evolution, like creationism, has absolutely no proof and is completely faith-based.

Re:Lowest mass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903195)

The article says: "The planet has four to five times the mass of Jupiter"

Also, this is the smallest one they have a picture of. They've found smaller exo planets, but there are no pictures of them; their existence is known only by how they affect their parent star's light; either by dimming it as they pass in front, or for the larger ones, red/blue shifting it as their orbiting actually moves the star.

Isn't science wonderful? (4, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | about a year ago | (#43903289)

Twenty years ago, I though that there were relatively few exoplanets - only perhaps one in every few hundred systems having them - and even if there were one nearby, the chances of detecting it, ever, were small. Now we are knee deep in exoplanets, we know that large numbers of stars can have them, and we can even see them (probably). What I thought would never happen is fast transitioning from surprising to mundane.

Which just goes to prove the to Clarke's law, that almost nothing is impossible, in due course. Once we couldn't see them. Now we can see them, but fear we will never visit them. But history shows that visiting will come, in time - provided we have enough time.

Re:Isn't science wonderful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905701)

"How come all these planets are filled with alien zombie corpses?"

"Beats me, let's bring a sample back to Earth."

Re:Isn't science wonderful? (1)

BranMan (29917) | about a year ago | (#43907287)

What could possibly go wrong?

The way things are going... (2)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#43903341)

... what with ever-increasing effective apertures and all, we are going to see earth-sized explanets within some 20 or 30 years, at least during my expected lifetime. Maybe we will, within that time, even have spectroscopic analyses of some of these planets' atmospheres: oxygen? no oxygen ? Water in gas phase ? Nobody would have ever imagined that when I was an adolescent. All of which is pretty exciting.

Re:The way things are going... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#43906185)

You must be pretty young then. When I was a kid, most people didn't realize that we couldn't already see exoplanets.

Lowest Mass Exoplanet Imaged. Probably. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903353)

But we may have deep-fried it, or possibly jerry-rigged it. We're just not certain at this stage. But imaging is definitely a possibility.

I Like the Probably bit (1)

gravis777 (123605) | about a year ago | (#43903637)

Truth in a headline. :-) I sped read the article, and it looks that they were alluding to the fact that it hasn't been confirmed as a planet. But after reading "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming", would speculate that you could also say that images have been taken that are still being analyzed, or that both computer and human observations have glossed over that show planets.

Missing from headline (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#43903799)

Lowest mass exoplanet directly seen from the Earth

We don't know what aliens have seen orbiting other stars...

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