First Direct Image of Exoplanets Around a Sun-like Star

We have already directly imaged 322 exoplanets as of February 2020. Young planets that emit infrared light and are far from the glare of the star are the easiest to spot. NASA maintains a list of directly imaged exoplanets.

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) has taken the first ever image of a young, Sun-like star accompanied by two giant exoplanets. Images of systems with multiple exoplanets are extremely rare, and — until now — astronomers had never directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. ESO revealed a planetary system being born in a new, stunning VLT image. Now, the same telescope, using the same instrument, has taken the first direct image of a planetary system around a star like our Sun, located about 300 light-years away and known as TYC 8998-760-1. ESO’s VLT was also the first telescope to directly image an exoplanet, back in 2004, when it captured a speck of light around a brown dwarf, a type of ‘failed’ star. 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.

SOURCES- European Southern Observatory
Written By Brian Wang

14 thoughts on “First Direct Image of Exoplanets Around a Sun-like Star”

  1. I’m thinking the bigger problem is more “anthropomorphic”. If the sapio-raptors had dodged the Big One, and evolved far enough to write Shakespeare, I think it’s likely that our distant mammal ancestors would not have gotten past the “animal cracker” stage, i.e. the only “anthropologists” to look at the record would have residual scales (or feathers). “Dinopologists?”

  2. I think that, regardless of fire, you still need some ready environmental source of reactive chemicals just to give you the power requirements for the big brain, and physical movement.
    And oxygen is probably the simplest source of that (Fluorine? Chlorine?)

  3. If veociraptors, or rather the closely related sapio-raptors, HAD developed writing and literature, how would we know?

    Would paper last this long? Would even cave paintings have made it this far without ground water eventually washing the walls clean? Would any ancient bone found with regular coded scratched end up fossilized well enough to preserve enough to be recognisable as writing?
    Adobe buildings will have eroded completely to dust. Wood will have rotted completely, or been crushed unrecognizably by geological time.

    We’d probably spot signs of metal working and large stone structures, should they be buried well enough to last. But anything short of that would be unrecognisable.

  4. That hardly Bear’s consideration.
    Also, if not for the Big One, would the velociraptors have ended up writing Shakespeare? (“The Taming of the Iguana”, “The Merchant of the Black Lagoon”, “Romeo and Diplodocus”)

  5. Ability to maintain a fire means you need a fuel source, an oxidant, and a mostly inert atmosphere so that fires can be safely contained. That means an oxygen/nitrogen or oxygen/CO2 atmosphere is likely, since oxygen is the simplest and most common oxidant, and nitrogen or CO2 are the two most common and simplest inert gases. Oxygen/nitrogen is more likely, because CO2 will tend to collect near the ground and smother any fires.

    That in turn means the technological species is likely to be an oxygen breather. Need a lot of power (by biological standards) for that big brain.

  6. There are a few likely common requirements for a technological species:
    — Social behavior, so they can cooperate on science and technology, and build a civilization.
    — Some form of complex communication. Doesn’t have to be vocal, but has to be able to express complex ideas. Social groups probably encourage this to evolve. But these two don’t constrain morphology much.
    — Tool manipulation. Some form of digits or suction cups. Probably more than one per “hand”, and at least two “hands” simultaneously. “Hand” is any body extension that’s free to manipulate stuff (don’t have to put their weight on it etc).
    — Depth perception. Necessary for tool manipulation. This could be with something like sonar, but probably binocular vision is best. But they could have more than two eyes, or a combination of binocular and peripheral vision. As long as they can point two eyes forward, that’s good enough. (Eyes are an example of convergent evolution, so likely to evolve.)
    — Depth perception means they’re likely to be predatory. In that case, they’ll need efficient locomotion (unless they’re ambush predators).
    — Complex brain. Required by the above. Constrains brain cavity size (doesn’t have to be in the “head”) and birth mechanics. May affect locomotion.
    — Environmental requirement: ability to maintain a fire. Needed for a bunch of stuff.
    — Environmental bonus: view of the night sky. Enables astronomy, encourages curiosity, drive for exploration.

    Those are about it, I think.

  7. I can’t think of an overall structural form that would be more suitable than humanoid bipeds for an evolving technological species, but I’m sure that squid-dog-centaurs would say the same thing.
    Only, you know, via images flashing in the chromophores of their skin the way any sensible species would communicate.

  8. Interesting point about facial creases. And “Footfall” (Niven/Pournelle) actually presented some reasonably alien aliens: baby elephants whose trunks divided a the ends into 8 parts. At the same time the human form has the rest of the planet whipped. Earth could have evolved Kzinti’s, however, we got us. I’ll have to think about it some more.

  9. But we have many, many examples of lifeforms on Earth that have
    –extra limbs, from 5 (Elephants) to 10 (squid)
    –different digit counts (Pandas and emus just to name 2)
    — weird creases in their faces, from Turkeys to Bats.
    So I don’t agree that evolution will avoid such things.
    Now the actual brain development required to be a technological species? There we only have one example, so I can’t say.

  10. I think if there are intelligent aliens they will look like us. We evolved under tight boundary conditions, interacting with technology that also has tight boundary conditions. There’s no reason for extra limbs or digits, that’s a matter of efficient use of biological energy. They might have different organs and brains, but they will need to perform the same basic functions. All those weird creases in Star Trek aliens are just bacteria traps. I think more likely though that they will be completely out of evolutionary phase, and they will either be organic chemicals or will have moved on into silicon, and generate and occupy any odd cyborg form that they might fancy. Ok, I take it back. They could look like anything.

  11. So transit method & radial velocity method are finding planets really close to stars. Direct imaging is finding planets very far from stars. Neither is very good for finding planetary systems similar to the one we live in. So it is hard to know how far from typical ours is.


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