An American astrophysicist has released the longest-running video of multiple exoplanets orbiting a star. In the film, the motions of the four outer planets in the HR 8799 system, which were recorded over a period of 12 years, are summed up in a few seconds, and thus greatly accelerated. So it becomes understandable, says Jason Wang of Northwestern University: “This video shows the motion of the planets on a human time scale, and I hope people can enjoy something this cool.” It can’t search for anything from the video, but it can help others understand the work: “That’s the fun part of the science.”
HR 8799 is a star about 130 light-years away, and in 2008 and 2009 only four exoplanets were discovered there. The image of the system released in November 2008 is the first ever of a multi-planetary system. Wang has been infatuated with the star and his co-stars ever since, Writes his university. With the Keck Observatory, he’s been taking new images every year and combining them into the latest video. It covers a total of 12 years and consists of 10 individual recordings. There was previously a video that summarized the movement seven years ago.
All four exoplanets in HR 8799 are much larger than Jupiter, having seven to ten times the mass of the largest planet in the solar system. It will be some time before there is a full video showing a complete orbit around the star for the four. The farthest need 57 Earth years for an orbit, while the others need 101, 189 and even 465 Earth years. Wang owes the fact that direct images of exoplanets are possible to a technique called “adaptive optics.” This compensates for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. In addition, the extremely bright light of the star itself should be obscured by a vertebrae from the crown, and HR 8799 can be seen with the naked eye in the constellation of Pegasus. The intermediate frames of the video were also calculated in order to make the point movements more even.
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