It's true that the picture you see above is not in high quality. However this real image, taken by the Gemini Planet Imager, shows an exoplanet orbiting around its giant star, at 63 light-years from the Sun.

The exoplanet you see in white is Beta Pictoris b (β Pic b). Discovered in 2008, it has 1.65 times Jupiter's size and between 4 and 11 times its mass. The planet orbits at 1.2-1.3 billion km around its host star (about 2 times bigger than the Sun) in between 17 and 21 years.

The Gemini Planet Imager is actually a high contrast imaging instrument being built for the 8-meter GST (Gemini South Telescope) in Chile, whose development took about a decade. Its goal is to image faint planets next to bright stars, probe their atmospheres and see planet-forming disks around young stars.
To see Beta Pictoris b, astronomers blocked (in the image) the star by a mask so its light doesn’t interfere with the light of the planet. Adding to this, the GPI obtains a spectrum from every pixel element in the field of view to allow scientists to study the planet in detail.

Actually the GPI posted several images, whose one of light scattered by a disk of dust orbiting the star HR 4796 A (one of the two stars of binary star system HR 4796) and an other of Jupiter's moon Europa. For the next years, GPI will study 600 young stars for creating a survey of their orbiting planets, and naturally, the data from the GPI will give infos about planet's formation, atmospheric composition, orbital period and temperature.

Sources : The Verge and Gemini Observatory

4 comments

  1. Amazing - a very important milestone in our understanding of the cosmos. Can't wait until they can detect biomarkers, such as O2, in an exo-atmosphere. That will be a game changer.

  2. Indeed buddy ! For the picture it's not like we can expect with beautiful artistic exoplanet wallpapers, but before to see real photos of exoplanets (in several years) it's already a good progress :)

  3. Yeap exactly my friend! :)

  4. Spectacular science. Elated to be able to "see" a world beyond our solar system! Looking forward to the discovery and classification of many additional new worlds!

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