A trio of planets (faint dots indicated with arrows) orbits the young, massive star HR 8799, some 130 light-years from Earth. Discovered using the Hawaii Keck telescope.
Credit: Marois, National Research Council/Canada, Keck
Today is yet another historic day for our civilization and a milestone for the photographic medium. For the first time we can view a photograph of another planet orbiting a sun outside of our own solar system. These planets--known in the scientific world as extrasolar planets--have, during the last decade, been deduced to exist. Their orbits create a wobble and/or a change in brightness in the stars that they circle, and that minute change can be detected by ultra-sensitive scientific instruments. Over 300 of these extrasolar planets have been deduced to exist over the past decade.
However until today's announcement, no one has been able to show proof in the form of a photograph. Once again the power of the medium that we use to explore life on earth has been used to further our knowledge of our place in the universe. After all, until something can be seen to exist in a photograph, it's hard for many to imagine that it truly exists.
Today's announcement was made even more spectacular and incredible in that two independent research teams provided photographs of two different extrasolar planetary systems, proving that the scientific community has a huge competitive drive!
Read the news of both discoveries: