Hubble Finds Planet Circling a Distant Star
Astronomers announced in 2008 that NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star. Observations taken 21 months apart by the coronagraph on Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys showed the object orbiting around a star named Fomalhaut. The planet, called Fomalhaut b, is approximately 10 times the distance of Saturn from our sun. Estimated to be as much as three times Jupiter's mass, Fomalhaut b is located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish." Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by NASA's Infrared Astronomy Satellite. The planet is brighter than expected for an object of three Jupiter masses. One possibility is that it has a Saturn-like ring of ice and dust reflecting starlight. Scientists theorize that the ring might eventually coalesce to form moons.
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