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2008 Brings First Photo of Planet Outside Solar System

Galactic Explorer Discovers Image of Extrasolar Planet

Artist depiction of Fomalhaut B

An extrasolar planet (also referred to as an exoplanet) is the term used to describe planets orbiting stars outside of our solar system.  According to the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia at the time of this publication 335 extrasolar planets have been detected orbiting stars besides our Sun.  Prior to last year, all detected extrasolar planets were found using indirect methods of observation.  Details on detection methods can be found here.  This all changed in May 2008 when astronomer and celestial explorer Paul Kalas identified exoplanet Fomalhaut b in images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope using a technique that blocks out the light from the star called a coronograph.  The images Paul Kalas used were taken in 2004 and 2006 and can be seen labeled below.  Fomalhaut b is expected to be about the same size as Jupiter and orbits its star about 115 times farther than the Earth orbits the Sun.      

2008 also saw the first discovery of carbon dioxide on an extrasolar planet.  Detected on planet HD 189733 b (in need of a much better name) more details on these discoveries can be found in the source section below.


 Top 5 Exploration News Stories of 2008:

For more detailed information on the detection of Fomalhaut b

Wikipedia article on Fomalhaut b

AFP News Story (November 13 2008)

NASA Site on Fomalhaut b

For information about detection of C02

Wikipedia article on HD 189733b 

Universe Today article article 



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