London: An astronomer in New Zealand claims
to have captured the first amateur pictures of another solar
system from a tiny telescope in his back yard.
Rolf Olsen, a New Zealand-based astrophotographer, has
published the first non-professional pictures of the disk of
debris and dust swirling around Beta Pictoris, a very young
Incredibly, the 12 million-year-old system, some 60
million light years away from our own, was captured with only
a 25cm telescope, a newspaper reported.
The material that forms the proto-planetary disc around
Beta Pictoris has been photographed by large observatories
before, but it was not thought possible for amateurs to take a
picture of the system, due to the glare from the star itself.
But by capturing an image of a similar star and
subtracting it from the picture of Beta Pictoris, Olsen was
able to eliminate the stellar glare, revealing the dust disk.
Olsen says he first gathered fifty images of Beta
Pictoris. Then he collected similar pictures of another star
that is similar in colour and brightness Alpha Pictoris. He
subtracted the image of the second star, removing the glare.
The raw image of the material disc looked scrappy, so
he blended it with the original image of Beta Pictoris using
photo editing software.
Olsen wrote on his website: "The result is, I
believe, the first amateur image of another solar system: The
proto-planetary disc around Beta Pictoris. I must say it feels
really special to have actually captured this."
Olsen`s observatory is located in Titirangi in the
foothills of Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland.