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Watch Four Planets Spin Around a Star 130 Light-Years Away

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Four exoplanets, each larger than Jupiter, orbit HR8799, represented by the central yellow star.
image: Gizmodo/Jason Wang/Northwestern University

Astronomical phenomena tend to occur in time spans that dwarf our human scale. Galaxies change over millions and billions of years, not decades. But a new timelapse of observations of a distant star system shows just 12 years of clockwork crammed into just a few seconds.

The star known as HR8799 is first extrasolar planetary system It is never imaged directly. Recently, Jason Wang, a professor of astrophysics at Northwestern University, took his decade on the system to create his five-second animation representing the motion of four large planets orbiting a star. We used more worthwhile observations. Wang and his colleagues used the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to collect his 12 years of data.

Image of four planets orbiting HR 8799 (12 year time lapse)

“Usually it’s hard to see planets in orbit,” Wang said. Press release from Northwestern“For example, it’s not obvious that Jupiter or Mars orbits the Sun, because we live in the same star system and we’re not looking down from above.” It’s either too fast or too slow to catch, but this video shows the planet moving on the human timescale, and I hope people will be able to enjoy something amazing. “

HR8799 is located in the constellation Pegasus, more than 130 light years away from Earth. The mass of the star is 1.5 times that of the Sun, and its brightness is about 5 times that of the Sun. Four giant planets call the star home, each larger than our own Jupiter. The innermost planet takes about 45 years to orbit, and the outermost planet about 5 centuries. (Neptune, the most distant known planet in our solar system, orbits the sun every 165 years.)

“Observing an orbiting system in time-lapse video doesn’t give us anything scientifically, but it helps others evaluate what we’re researching,” said Wang. increase. “It can be difficult to describe the nuances of science in words. But showing the actual science helps others understand its significance.”

This current animation by Wang is not his first.the researcher a similar short animation In 2017, after seven years of observational data. Wang’s animation provides a concrete perspective on planetary motion. This phenomenon may have previously only been simulated or read.

Correction: An earlier version of this article’s headline stated that the system is 130 million light-years away from Earth, but it is actually 130 light-years away.

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