WM Keck Observatory observes the dance of exoplanets around the star: Video

In recent years, we have learned a lot about exoplanets located outside our Solar System. NASA has confirmed the presence of more than 5,000 distant worlds. But the planets orbiting the star HR 8799 are pretty special. A new time-lapse video shows their heavenly dance for 12 years.

Faint drops of light are exoplanets orbiting the star HR 8799. Authorship: WM Keck

In 2008, HR 8799 became the first system in which it was possible to explore exoplanets. Since then, Northwestern University astrophysicist Jason Wang has been using the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii to monitor them. That’s where the slow-motion images come from. The work of the scientist allows tracing a decade of the movement of the planets HR 8799 in just a few seconds.

To get a better look at the planets, the star in the center was deliberately covered. The video was then processed to focus on the exoplanets and smooth out their movement. “There’s nothing scientific about watching orbital systems in slow motion, but it helps viewers understand and appreciate what we’re studying,” explains Jason Wang.

500 years for a full orbit

HR 8799 is just over 133 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. By cosmic standards, it’s almost there. The star is younger than our Sun, and its planets are massive gas giants larger than Jupiter. Moreover, they orbit their mother star at a very long distance. The planet closest to the star takes 45 years to complete a full orbit around it, and the farthest one takes almost 500 years.

The planet closest to the star HR 8799 e is about 30 million years old and weighs 5-10 Jovian. After studying the spectrum of the exoplanet, astronomers find that its gas envelope contains a much larger amount of carbon monoxide (CO) than methane. Because of this, a powerful greenhouse effect formed on it, warming it up to almost 1000 °C.

Take the test to find out what you know about exoplanets.

According to Science

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time