Worlds without end: Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, astronomers have taken the first image that captures two different exoplanets circling a young sunlike star.
The star’s light is partly blocked in the upper left of the photo to the right, cropped slightly to post here.
You can read the paper here [pdf]. The star itself, though similar in mass to the Sun, is thought to be only seventeen million years old.
But the system, dubbed TYC 8998-760-1, is nothing like our solar system. One of the star’s companions straddles the line that defines planets, with a mass 14 times Jupiter’s; the other has a mass of six Jupiters. Both orbit far from the star, about 160 and 320 times the average distance between Earth and the Sun. That puts them more than four times farther out than Pluto is from the Sun.
The size and distance of these giant planets were why they could be imaged from the ground.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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