Saturday, 22 November 2008

β Pictoris b

They are coming thick and fast. Is this yet another exoplanet? Well it's a good candidate. It's is a difficult image to interpret but have a look at the star β Pictoris.

Credit: ESO

The light blue disc has been digitally enhanced, β Pic is at the centre and normally its glare would obscure everything, this glare has been removed. The multi-coloured flares are a ring (or rings) of dust circling the star similar to Fomalhaut but here we are looking exactly edge on. And there it is, just offset from the centre at 11 o-clock, a faint point of light. More work needs to be done to make certain that it's not a foreground or background object, but there is good evidence for a planet. Noticeably it is directly aligned to the rings. Had it been at 1 o-clock a non-planetary explanation would be more likely. Also estimates of its mass are about 8 times the mass of Jupiter, calculated from its brightness and its postulated effect on the ring system. Big, but planetary.

Just have to wait for more data.
Via the Bad Astronomer, Universe Today and ESO.

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