Hubble confirms existence of predicted planet

December 10th, 2008 - 2:51 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 10 (ANI): The Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a planet, whose existence was predicted by an astronomer 2 years ago, which makes it the only other planet seen after the accurate prediction of Neptune, discovered more than 160 years ago.

In 2006, astronomer Alice Quillen of the University of Rochester predicted that a planet of a particular size and orbit must lie within the dust of a nearby star.

Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has imaged that planet.

According to Eugene Chiang, associate professor of astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley, and part of the team that imaged the new planet, Alice saw the way the inner edge of the dust ring cut off sharply and recognized that a planet likely orbited just inside. The orbit we found was amazingly close to Alices prediction.

Just think, it has been over 160 years since the presence of a planet has been inferred and so quickly imaged, and that was a planet orbiting our own Sun, not a star hundreds of trillions of miles away, said Nick Bigelow, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester.

On November 13, Chiang and his colleagues announced they had imaged a planet around Fomalhaut, a bright, nearby star surrounded by a ring of dust.

One of the planets matches the planet Quillen predicted in 2006.

Along with three other planets imaged concurrently by another team, this is the first planet outside of our solar system to be directly imaged.

Neptune, imaged in 1846, was inferred by its effect on the orbit of Uranus three years earlier, and marked the first time a planet was predicted before it was actually seen.

Hubble Space Telescope images revealed that the ring of dust surrounding Fomalhaut was off-center.

The images were also clear enough to show that the ring itself had a surprisingly sharp edge.

That sharp inside edge, Quillen calculated, demanded that a relatively small, Neptune-size planet was tucked right up against the inner side of the ring, using its gravity to toss out of orbit the dust in the area.

According to Quillens calculations, the ring is elliptical because the planets orbit around Fomalhaut is also elliptical.

Fomalhauts ring is offset by 1.4 billion miles, more than 15 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, suggesting the hidden planets orbit is also tremendously skewed. (ANI)

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