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.
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.”
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.”
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.”