Jack oughton 02.12.08 - fomalhaut


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Jack oughton 02.12.08 - fomalhaut

  1. 1. Written  content  ©  2008  Jack  Oughton   Fomalhaut B In Focus: Meet the first planet to be visibly imaged outside our solar system Image 1: A direct visible light observation of Fomalhaut B Fomalhaut Facts • Planet Size: Estimated no more than three times Jupiter's mass • Planet Location: Orbiting the star Fomalhaut, 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish). • Orbital Period: 872 years. • Orbital Distance: 17 billion kilometres from the star, roughly 10 times the distance of the planet Saturn from the Sun. • Planet Structure: Fomalhaut b is thought to possess a circumplanetary disc, like the rings around Jupiter. Fomalhaut b’s disk is at a distance similar to the orbital radius of Jupiter's satellites. Moons could be forming around the planet. • Fomalhaut b is believed to be the coolest, lowest-mass object ever observed outside our solar system. • The star, Fomalhaut is expected to burn out in only one billion years, 1/10th the lifespan of our Sun. This will probably not leave enough time for advanced life to evolve on any habitable worlds the star might possess. Discovery Timeline • Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since the discovery of an excess of dust around the system in the 1980s 1      
  2. 2. Written  content  ©  2008  Jack  Oughton   • In 2004, the first-ever visible light image of a large dust belt surrounding Fomalhaut was taken. It showed that this belt is actually a ring of protoplanetary debris approximately 34.5 billion kilometres across with a sharp inner edge. This sharp inner edge suggested the presence of young planets which gather up dust and matter as they orbit - and prompted the team to begin looking for the suspected planet in 2005. • In 2008 the first direct light images of Fomalhaut b are taken • Future observations will image the planet in infared and look for evidence of water vapour clouds in the atmosphere. This give us our first chance to study a the planetary equivilant of a newborn, only 100 million years old. • The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled to be launched in 2013, will be turning its infared eye on Fomalhaut. It will have stronger optical capabilities than we currently have today, and will search for other planets in the system. It will also look at the region interior to the dust ring for other things such as an inner asteroid belt. Significance of discovery • The search for exoplanets has up to now depended on detecting either the wobble they induce in their parent star or, if their orbits are side-on to telescopes, watching them dim the star's light as they pass in front of it. We have never had a ‘naked eye’ image before. • The inner edge of our Solar System's Kuiper Belt is similarly shaped by the gravitational influence of Neptune, researchers believe Fomalhaut could harbour more planets. • Current methods to find exoplanets can only detect Jupiter-sized objects and larger; Dr. Christian Marois, the leader of a team that recorded three planets circling a star known as HR 8799 believes that there could be more undiscovered planets in orbit around Fomalhaut, too small for us to detect: "Other gas giants or even rocky planets could reside there." • The Fomalhaut system is only 200 million years old, ours is thought to be over 5 billion years old: we are watching a new system form. • New technological advancements in the coming decades may allow us to study a planetary system much like our own, in a younger stage of development, and allow us to compare how varying factors such as the size of the star, and the position and number of the planets affect the system as a whole. References: HEIC0821 News Release, Hubble/ESA, - http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/doc/heic0821.doc Exoplanets  finally  come  into  view,  BBC  News  -­‐   http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7725584.stm-­‐   Notes  to  editor:     I  am  happy  to  include  more  pictures  ,  quotes,  information  and  a  visual  timeline,  depending  on  the   amount  of  space  for  segment.  I’d  also  be  happy  to  interview  some  of  the  researchers  involved.     Some  text  would  be  rewritten  but  this  is  the  structure  i  am  prepared  to  work  with.   2      
  3. 3. Written  content  ©  2008  Jack  Oughton   I  am  of  course  open  to  revisions  and  suggestions.   I  also  use  publisher  and  would  therefore  like  to  create  a  visual  design  for  the  piece  that  looks  like  a   moderately  futuristic    fact  file,  however  I  am  not  aware  of  your  policy  on  this,  as  it  may  conflict  with   your  magazine’s  visual  design     3