Scientists tackle orbit of exoplanet at least four times the size of Jupiter

Last Updated: Friday, May 16, 2014 - 12:02

Washington: Researchers, using one of the world`s largest telescopes, have tracked the orbit of a planet at least four times the size of Jupiter.

The scientists were able to identify the orbit of the exoplanet, Beta Pictoris b, which sits 63 light-years from our solar system, by using the Gemini Planet Imager`s (GPI) next-generation, high-contrast adaptive optics (AO) system. This approach is sometimes referred to as extreme AO.

The Gemini Planet Imager snapped an amazingly clear and bright image of the gas giant Beta Pictoris b after an exposure of just one minute.
By using a series of these images and calibrating the AO system and camera, researchers were able to refine the estimate of the planet`s orbit by looking at the two discs, which are made up of gas and debris, around its parent star.

They observed that the planet is not aligned with Beta Pictoris` (its star`s) main debris disc but is aligned to and potentially interacting with an inner warped component disc.
Furthermore, the team predicts that there is a small chance that the planet will "transit," that is, partially block its star, as seen from Earth in late 2017. This would allow a very precise measurement of the planet`s size. Lisa Poyneer , one of the lead Lawrence Livermore authors of a paper, concludes: "GPI also measures the planet`s spectrum, and hence chemical composition.Knowing what it is made of and how big it is will help us figure out how it formed."

The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

First Published: Friday, May 16, 2014 - 12:02
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