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First Exoplanet To Be Seen In Color Is Blue

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the your-eyes-are-the-color-of-hd-189733-b dept.

Space 139

ananyo writes "A navy-blue world orbiting a faraway star is the first exoplanet to have its colour measured. Discovered in 2005, HD 189733 b is one of the best-studied planets outside the Solar System, orbiting a star about 19 parsecs away in the Vulpecula, or Fox, constellation. Previous efforts to observe the planet focused on the infrared light it emits — invisible to the human eye. Astronomers have now used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the planet and its host star. Hubble's optical resolution is not high enough to actually 'see' the planet as a dot of light separate from its star, so instead, the telescope receives light from both objects that mix into a single point source. To isolate the light contribution of the planet, the researchers waited for the planet to move behind the star during its orbit, so that its light would be blocked, and looked for changes in light colour. During the eclipse, the amount of observed blue light decreased, whereas other colours remained unaffected. This indicated that the light reflected by the planet's atmosphere, blocked by the star in the eclipse, is blue."

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139 comments

Suggested name of the planet (5, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 9 months ago | (#44253835)

Let's call this place "Eiffel 65".

Re:Suggested name of the planet (2)

rwise2112 (648849) | about 9 months ago | (#44253863)

Damn! The other planets are always bluer!

Re:Suggested name of the planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254503)

Nitrogen atmosphere? If our planet were any bluer it would be hard to breathe.

BTW, that 19 parsecs is about 62 light years.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (1)

danlip (737336) | about 9 months ago | (#44256033)

Nitrogen makes the sky look blue to an observer standing on the ground, but that is a scattering effect, and I doubt it has much affect on the color of a planet as observed from space, which is mostly about the light reflected from the surface (or clouds).

Re:Suggested name of the planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44253961)

It's in Vulpecula.
I wonder if it's a good place for Androsynth.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 9 months ago | (#44255333)

It's in Vulpecula.
I wonder if it's a good place for Androsynth.

Let's enslave some and find out. Actually, let's not and say we did. I'd rather they didn't unleash Orz into *heavy space*.

Don't you enjoy *parties*? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44255889)

You are not a *happy camper*.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (-1, Flamebait)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 9 months ago | (#44254017)

Fuck you for making go figure out the reference. What a horribly shit song with a horribly shit video.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 9 months ago | (#44254221)

"Too much of heaven,
Can bring you underground
Heaven, can always turn around."

"cause all that i want is a silicon girl.
with silicon lips and silicon hair.
sha la la, la la la you're my silicon girl
so come into my silicon world."

/ Eiffel 65

Re:Suggested name of the planet (4, Insightful)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about 9 months ago | (#44254603)

What a horrible and angry attitude toward the unknown. I'm glad I don't share your gene pool.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 9 months ago | (#44254665)

Well duh! Its a 90s song dude, having a shit video was all the rage, that way you could be "post ironic" about your hipness. Bad pop music, musicians that stared at their feet, oh and while the synths could be new the guitars needed to be from the 60s and 70s, the more shitty and offbeat the brand the better. I was playing with a lot of college bands in those days and while I always had my P-Bass (Can't go wrong with a Fender P-Bass, they never let you down) they were all playing Danelectro and Harmony, Silvertone and Kraftsman, as long as it was quirky looking they'd play those pieces of shit all night long....well for 2-3 song blocks then they'd have to retune those junkers..

As for TFA....am I the only one that reads these things and gets depressed? I see the photo and RTFA and find out its 62 light years away and think "I will NEVER get to see this incredible wonder with my own eyes, never feel its ground under my feet" and just get all bummed out. All one has to do is look up where we are in the Milky Way to see that while being out on the ass end of a spiral may be a safer place to be its sure as hell a looooong way from where all the exciting stuff is and if we can't find a way around that pesky speed of light thing? We will never EVER leave our own back yard.

I don't know about the rest of you but as somebody who grew up watching Star Trek and Battlestar I find that thought thoroughly depressing.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (3, Informative)

lightBearer (2692183) | about 9 months ago | (#44255107)

You're not alone, but in this case you'd not get to feel the ground beneath your feet due to it being a gas giant. Just sayin'.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (1)

Dodgy G33za (1669772) | about 9 months ago | (#44256085)

Hey, if you are in your thirties there is every chance you will be around for another 60 years. Be positive. Plenty of time to get working on that warp drive after you have spent your 10,000 hours becoming a crack physicist. After all, someone has to invent one eventually.

Once you have the warp drive all you need to do is work on those very large floaty shoes you will need when you get there.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254267)

No. Let's not.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 9 months ago | (#44255667)

I would call it "Microsoft Windows". From this distance, you can only see a it's Blue Sky Of Death, but maybe some life (i.e. virus, worms and similar) could had evolved there.

Re:Suggested name of the planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44255883)

The next version of windows will be called 'Microsoft Smurf' with the ad-line " It's the Smurfiest! :) "

Question: what atmospheric constituents? (4, Interesting)

under_score (65824) | about 9 months ago | (#44253857)

I'm curious: what are the likely elements and molecules that would cause the blue reflection?

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (4, Interesting)

show me altoids (1183399) | about 9 months ago | (#44253881)

Many and varied. After all, in our own solar system, Earth, Uranus, and Neptune are all shades of blue.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (3, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44253919)

Many and varied. After all, in our own solar system, Earth, Uranus, and Neptune are all shades of blue.

If Uranus is blue, you should really go see a proctologist.

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week! Tip your wait staff!

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (3, Funny)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 9 months ago | (#44254013)

"I'm sorry Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all." "Oh. What's it called now?" "Urectum [comedycentral.com]."

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254931)

Urectum? U damn near killed um!

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (2)

scuzzlebutt (517123) | about 9 months ago | (#44254831)

*Rim shot* See what I did there?

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44254943)

See what I did there?

I do, and I approve.

Well played, sir/madam, well played.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44256059)

Well played, sir/madam, well played.

Pointless qualification. There are no women on the Internet.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44253915)

Liquid water teeming with life! Or lifeless methane.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (4, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 months ago | (#44254253)

It's a very primitive biosphere; dominated by methane, molecular hydrogen and congressmen.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (1)

RandomFactor (22447) | about 9 months ago | (#44255235)

It's a very primitive biosphere; dominated by methane, molecular hydrogen and congressmen.

So you are saying blue congressmen are volatile gas giants?

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44253949)

The suggested explanation is really cool and exotic: it's "rain" of molten glass (silicate particles) in the extremely hot and turbulent atmosphere.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (3, Interesting)

under_score (65824) | about 9 months ago | (#44254189)

That is cool! I'm sure that in the distant future when we get to actually explore these places (probes or human explorers), that we will find all sorts of nifty things... and probably discover all sorts of ways in which we are wrong :-) I wish I could see that future!

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254423)

Wait for it, you'll see it.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 9 months ago | (#44254901)

We're going to need a massive advancement in umbrella technology first.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 9 months ago | (#44255101)

what are the likely elements and molecules that would cause the blue reflection?

Methane, for one.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44255115)

I'm curious: what are the likely elements and molecules that would cause the blue reflection?

Blue is very common. It's caused by Rayleigh scattering. Just about anything can cause a blue reflection if the structure is right. In this case it's small particles of "glass". The glass itself is not blue.

Re:Question: what atmospheric constituents? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 9 months ago | (#44255305)

Maybe it's a gas giant that is absorbing blue when it passes in front of the star.

Not Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44253891)

Neptune is blue too....

Re:Not Water (3, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 9 months ago | (#44253911)

Ah, but Neptune is named for a water god, which totally refutes your point and isn't a non-sequitur at all.

Re:Not Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254759)

Oh crap, they found planet Microsoft, if it's blue it needs a reboot, perhaps a meteoroid will slam into it soon (the power button effect) then it will be good for a few more days.

Vulpecula, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44253929)

Probably explains something about Vulpix.

Re:Vulpecula, you say? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44253953)

Isn't that the area the Androsynth mysteriously disappeared from? Watch out! The Orz will come after us next if we are noticed.

blue shift (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44253989)

or it indicates the planet is hurtling toward us and will strike the earth in less than 40 years.
We need to start building arks NOW.
We need to start building arks regardless.

Blue = hydrocarbons or hydroxys (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 9 months ago | (#44254049)

So this planet might have a breathable atmosphere. But odds are it's more methane-based.

Still, pretty nice we can observe a planet's color.

Re:Blue = hydrocarbons or hydroxys (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 9 months ago | (#44254259)

guess again, and RTFA

unless you're a Horta, then I could totally see that comment making sense

Re:Blue = hydrocarbons or hydroxys (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 9 months ago | (#44255181)

I RTFA and the chemical background is lacking.

Whereas my chemical BG is overwhelming for their shit high-school educated selves.

Try again when you have the capability to wipe out the USA's AG Economy, eh?

Bullshit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254093)

Can we just Finally Fucking Admit [citizenhearing.org] that life is teeming in the universe and that information like this is a slap in the face to humanity's intelligence? WOW really? A planet that might host life is blue? You don't say? Makes no sense at all!

Seriously. There needs to be a serious and responsible disclosure by the governments/people who control the governments that there's many exoplanets, teeming with all kinds of life, and that we are not little children, but in fact empowered by this information and that as a race we should evolve our mind-frames to what is possible within our race with this new hyper-dimensional physics that is being held in top secret black projects.

But the controllers need to control, and religion is very very big business. Why not hold on to that as long as possible, humanity be damned? That's their mentality.

Some serious shit is wrong within science, the reality of humanity, and this game needs to end soon before we are all kept in the dark forever.

Re:Bullshit (1)

Major Ralph (2711189) | about 9 months ago | (#44254149)

What? No one ever said this planet might host life. According to TFA it's a gas giant.. And last I heard gas giants don't host life.

Re:Bullshit (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 months ago | (#44254393)

The last I had heard, we were nowhere near determining whether that was so. It seems improbable that a gas giant would, but until we actually have a reasonably decent sample size of gas giants under close observation, I'd say it's awfully premature to jump to conclusions.

Re:Bullshit (2)

TopSpin (753) | about 9 months ago | (#44254809)

It seems improbable that a gas giant would

Does it seem improbable to you? Life on Earth evolved in a fluid.

Even if genesis is not possible in a gas giant atmosphere, large planets tend to have lots of moons and, therefore, lots of opportunities for primitive life to emerge. Extremophiles from such a moon could survive a short trip through space to a gas giant's atmosphere. Some small fraction of those would thrive and evolve in the new environment.

I suspect gas giant atmospheres may actually be very fertile. Life is good at producing simple sphere shapes needed for buoyancy. There are probably gas giants with billions of tons of biomass drifting around.

Re:Bullshit (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 9 months ago | (#44254331)

you might have read the article about this being a gas giant with 1,000+ degree C atmosphere, with sideways 7,000 KPM wind containing glass particles that make the blue color. but instead you had to reflexively yank your own leash and bark a bunch of nonsense. Maybe the reason governments haven't come out with information about extraterrestrials is that you imagine it from non-existent evidence?

Did they account for Doppler? (0)

HighOrbit (631451) | about 9 months ago | (#44254151)

FTA

To isolate the light contribution of the planet, Evans and his colleagues waited for the planet to move behind the star during its orbit, so that its light would be blocked, and looked for changes in light colour.

A spectrograph on board the Hubble monitored light coming from the source, in wavelengths ranging from yellow to ultraviolet. During the eclipse, the amount of observed blue light decreased, whereas other colours remained unaffected. This indicated that the light reflected by the planet's atmosphere, blocked by the star in the eclipse, is blue.

So, they are observing the change in light when the planet moves farther away (behind its star) and seeing less blue, thereby conjecturing the planet is blue. But wouldn't the planet's light also redshift as it moves away and blueshift as it moves toward us? How much of the color change is accounted for by doppler?

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254245)

Easy. Measure light as it passes by either sides of its star.

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (1)

brian0918 (638904) | about 9 months ago | (#44254293)

Are you suggesting that the planet orbits its star at such a high speed as to produce an observable doppler shift?

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254455)

That doppler shift would be observable from that star. The speed of the orbit isn't the issue. The speed of that planet relative to our planet is where the doppler would come into effect.

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 9 months ago | (#44254881)

Probably not. from the parent stars perspective the doppler discoloration is based on motion along the axis between the star and the planet. It would get much LESS doppler effect as the planets motion will be extremely low along that axis, or no motion if the planets orbit is highly circular.

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (1)

HighOrbit (631451) | about 9 months ago | (#44254525)

I don't know. You tell me. I don't know what the orbital period for this planet is or the distance it orbits at. Orbital speeds are pretty fast though. Google tells me that the earth moves about 107,000 km/hr around the sun. If their instruments are sensitive enough, they might see the difference. I would also guess there is a possible gravitational redshift and lensing depending on the mass of the star and the orbital distance.

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254365)

Epic physics fail. It is effectively the same as the redshift versus blueshift of a car speeding past you. How's that for an appropriate car analogy!

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 9 months ago | (#44254899)

Not really. If the planet is passing directly behind the star, its vector of motion is perpendicular to the direction of observation and would produce no doppler effect. The doppler affect only matters for motion towards or away from the observer.

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (1)

wootcat (1151911) | about 9 months ago | (#44254643)

No, I did not RTFA, but the first thought I had was; if the planet is between us and its star, we'd be "seeing" the side of the planet facing away from the star. Wouldn't it be dark? It's not like it's a binary system with another star lighting the opposite side. Since it's a gas giant, I guess there would be enough light filtering through the upper atmosphere edges to cast off some light, but overall, it seems like such a small area to glean colors from.

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (2)

Nadaka (224565) | about 9 months ago | (#44254937)

when a planet begins to transition behind its star, we would be seeing the bright sunward side of the planet, so the measure is still useful. We would only be seeing the full dark side of the planet when it passed in front of the parent star.

Re:Did they account for Doppler? (2)

gmclapp (2834681) | about 9 months ago | (#44254737)

The redshift used to measure the speed of objects moving away from us applies primarily to the galaxy as a whole. If you were to normalize the light received to compensate for the redshift of the galaxy as a whole, the additional velocity of the planet, being negligibly small with respect to your new frame of reference would not significantly 'redden' your results. Good question though.

I, for one, will be happy when Hubble is dead (4, Funny)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 9 months ago | (#44254363)

I mean, look at all this time and effort we're wasting on "science" and "discovery."

We need to get back to 16th century thinking and government funded services so my taxes can go down another $10 a paycheck. I mean, those cigarettes and premium cable TV channels aren't going to pay for themselves!

Re:I, for one, will be happy when Hubble is dead (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 9 months ago | (#44254673)

We need to get back to 16th century thinking and government funded services so my taxes can go down another $10 a paycheck.

I just now calculated it, and you're right, it is about $10 per paycheck for a typical software developer income.

It used to be that kings and noblemen would fund science. Now they fund vaccines for the poor. It used to be people funded the poor via the "poor box" at church. Now people fund science (whether they like it or not).

The net result is, for the common person, taking religion and self-giving out of helping the poor.

Re:I, for one, will be happy when Hubble is dead (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about 9 months ago | (#44254959)

First, false dilemma.

Second, taxing people that have disposable income is a lot more effective then trying to tax people that don't.

Third, get a grip. We're discussing extra-solar planets. Not every story is another opportunity for you to exhibit your training as a malcontent.

Glass, people. Glass. (2)

vikingpower (768921) | about 9 months ago | (#44254367)

The planet has a surface temperature of about 1000 degrees Celsius. It is scourged by 7000 km/h winds. Pieces of silica, or if you prefer: glass, are flying around at supersonic speeds. And yes, it is the silica and the glass that give the planet its blue color. We should not call it Eiffel65. We should call it Philip.

IANAA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254383)

I am not an astronomer; any chance that the coloration could be affected by something in between? For example these so called "wrinkles" that Voyager is experiencing as it exits the solar system? Just curious.

Re:IANAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44255537)

The chance is pretty low to non-existant, i guess. Those guys measured the star's spectrum, once while the planet was covered and once while it was next to the star. Then they calculated the difference and that is the color of the planet. The spectrum of the star can be expected to almost match an ideal black-body radiator. Using the known absorption lines, any manipulation to the spectrum (by doppler effect, absorption by gas clouds, ...) can be determined very precisely, and substracted before calculating the planet's color.

Units! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254397)

Since parsec is an antiquated unit, this planet is about 62 light years away. (or, more usefully: 2.914 quadrillion furlongs)

Wow. I actually got to be pedantic about units and none of the units involved were metric!

Re:Units! (1)

bmk67 (971394) | about 9 months ago | (#44254949)

Since parsec is an antiquated unit

Since when? The parsec is a very handy unit when you're measuring distance to stars from Earth using the parallax method.

Re:Units! (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 9 months ago | (#44255541)

One parsec means a parallax of 1 arc second, so presumably 19 parsecs means a parallax of 19 arc seconds? No? OTOH, to me, last year was a heavy year, so in comparison, this year feels like a light year.

You need to hire a better pilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254401)

19 Parsecs away, you say? Han could make it in less than 12.

I'm lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254609)

They can't see the planet, but they know when it's behind it's sun. It's 61 light years away. Umm, like is there water on the moon, or not?

TLDR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44254655)

TLDR: They found out that the planet is blue, by using MS paint colour picker on their instagram picture of the planet.

That''s not an eclipse (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 9 months ago | (#44254763)

Several times in TFS, it says that the planet is "eclipsed" by the star. This, of course, is nonsense: the correct term is "occluded," and the event is called an occultation.

Re:That''s not an eclipse (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 9 months ago | (#44255295)

How is it nonsense? Occulation is a type of eclipse, so all occultations are also eclipses..

Doesn't mean that at all. (2)

macraig (621737) | about 9 months ago | (#44254781)

The planet isn't blue. The blue light that got blocked out by the host star was actually the trillions of blue LEDs that the natives use to light their cities, just because they happen to really fancy blue.

Re:Doesn't mean that at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44255481)

Don't be daft; if it the planet was obscured by its sun, it would have it's daytime side facing us :-p

It's the colour of a blow-torch flame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44255069)

Because that's how welcoming the atmosphere is.
CAPTCHA: ignite

Latin (1)

alva_edison (630431) | about 9 months ago | (#44255597)

Vulpecula - Little Vixen, it differs slightly in connotation from the article's translation of Fox.

Re:Latin (1)

danlip (737336) | about 9 months ago | (#44256115)

Vixen just means female fox, and the connotations you are thinking of post-date Latin by at least a millennium.

19 parsecs away (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 9 months ago | (#44255921)

orbiting a star about 19 parsecs away

Where is the helpful posts converting this to a more useful measurement, like "libraries of congress" or "golf balls"?

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