Monday, December 01, 2008

Are they looking back?

Thus far, science has discovered planets around more than 250 stars. Most of these are too faint to see without a telescope, but a couple are quite bright, and several others can be found if you know where to look. Currently, a couple of these are high in the Southern sky. Fomalhaut, with a recently imaged planet that has been blogged everywhere, was just about directly overhead in November at sunset, and is now just a bit west. Click the image to see the stars in question.

Also visible is Epsilon Eridani, which is the closest star with a known planet. It is fairly dim, so despite being only 10 light years away, it is an inconspicuous star, the second in a line of four stretching away from Rigel up and to the north. So far, only huge gas giants have been detected. But these systems almost certainly have rocky planets or moons with outcrops waiting to be mapped.

1 comment:

C W Magee said...

For folks in the Northern Hemisphere: About an hour or two after it gets dark, Fomalhaut will be the bright star low in the south (assuming ~40N Northern Europeans may be screwed). Epsilon Eridani will be low and dim, but if you wait until Procyon rises a few hours later, you can look in a straight line from Procyon through Rigel to the 4 stars in a row that form that part of Eridanus. Epsilon is the second one.