Wow, a telescope in Chile took the first ever image of a sun-like star and two exoplanets

This image, captured by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows the star TYC 8998-760-1 accompanied by two giant exoplanets, TYC 8998-760-1b and TYC 8998-760-1c. This is the first time astronomers have directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. Credit: ESO

Let’s start with WOW. The image you see and the video below, are from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and show for the first time ever a Sun-like star with two exoplanets. The star system known as TYC 8998-760-1 is 300 light years from us.

This edition of Science Weekend, is well, unlike any we’ve ever done.

This image, captured by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows the star TYC 8998-760-1 accompanied by two giant exoplanets, TYC 8998-760-1b and TYC 8998-760-1c.
This image, captured by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows the star TYC 8998-760-1 accompanied by two giant exoplanets, TYC 8998-760-1b and TYC 8998-760-1c. Credit: ESO.

Alexander Bohn, a PhD student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and of those involved in imaging the two exoplanets said “this discovery is a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our Solar System, but at a much earlier stage of its evolution.”

His colleague and the co-author of the paper, Dr. Matthew Kenworthy, Associate Professor at Leiden University said “even though astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a tiny fraction of these exoplanets have been directly imaged. Direct observations are important in the search for environments that can support life.”

First Image of a Multi-Planet System Around a Sun-like Star. Credit: ESO.

ESO in describing the planets said they are both gas giants. “The two gas giants orbit their host star at distances of 160 and about 320 times the Earth-Sun distance. This places these planets much further away from their star than Jupiter or Saturn, also two gas giants, are from the Sun; they lie at only 5 and 10 times the Earth-Sun distance, respectively. The team also found the two exoplanets are much heavier than the ones in our Solar System, the inner planet having 14 times Jupiter’s mass and the outer one six times.”

“Fly” to TYC 8998-760-1. Credit: ESO.

ESO said the image was made possible because of the SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch) instrument on the VLT. “SPHERE blocks the bright light from the star using a device called coronagraph, allowing the much fainter planets to be seen. While older planets, such as those in our Solar System, are too cool to be found with this technique, young planets are hotter, and so glow brighter in infrared light. By taking several images over the past year, as well as using older data going back to 2017, the research team have confirmed that the two planets are part of the star’s system.”

An introduction to ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Credit: ESO.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 28 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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