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Planetary "first family" discovered by astronomers using Gemini and Keck Observatories
Date:11/14/2008

y contracted, making them easier to see in infrared light. Analysis of the brightness and colors of the objects at multiple wavelengths shows that these objects are about seven and 10 times the mass of Jupiter. As in our solar system, these giant planets orbit in the outer regions of this system--at roughly 25, 40, and 70 times the Earth-Sun separation. The furthest planet orbits just inside a disk of dusty debris, similar to that produced by the comets of the Kuiper Belt objects of our solar system just beyond the orbit of Neptune at 30 times the Earth-Sun distance. In some ways, this planetary system seems to be a scaled-up version of our solar system orbiting a larger and brighter star.

HR 8799 observations are part of a survey of 80 such young, dusty, and massive stars located in the solar neighborhood. The survey is using adaptive optics systems at Gemini, Keck and VLT in Chile to constrain the Jupiter-mass planet populations in a range of separations inaccessible to other exoplanet detection techniques. This discovery was made after observing only a few stars, which may lead to the conclusion that Jupiter-mass planets at separations similar to the giant planets of our solar system are frequent around stars more massive than the Sun, Marois said. "HR 8799's planetary system will be studied in great detail in the years to come, and it will surely be a prime target for future next-generation, exoplanet finding instruments and dedicated space missions."


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Contact: Lisa-Joy Zgorski
lzgorski@nsf.gov
703-292-8311
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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