Sunday, December 14

Another Planet

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has snapped the first image of a distant planet. Planet Fomalhaut b is near the size of Jupiter.

NASA says its Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light image of a planet circling another star system. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the planet, nicknamed Formalhaut b, has a mass is near the size of planet Jupiter.

Planet Formalhaut b orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut. It is located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis.

"Our Hubble observations were incredibly demanding," Hubble astronomer Paul Kalas, University of California-Berkeley, said in a statement. "Fomalhaut b is 1 billion times fainter than the star."

The planet could have a structure of rings similar in size to what Jupiter had in the past. Jupiter's rings eventually joined together to form its four main moons.

"The gravity of Fomalhaut b is the key reason that the vast dust belt surrounding Fomalhaut is cleanly sculpted into a ring and offset from the star," Kalas said in a statement. "We predicted this in 2005, and now we have the direct proof."

NASA said future observations will attempt to see the planet in infrared light. The space agency plans to look for evidence of water vapor clouds in its atmosphere.

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