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Scientist creates longest time-lapse movie of exoplanet circling its star

A scientist at Northwestern University has used seventeen years of data to create the longest time-lapse movie yet of an exoplanet circling its star, Beta Pictoris, which is located 63 light years away.

Constructed from real data, the footage shows Beta Pictoris b — a planet 12 times the mass of Jupiter — sailing around its star in a tilted orbit. The time-lapse video condenses 17 years of footage (collected between 2003 and 2020) into 10 seconds. Within those seconds, viewers can watch the planet make about 75% of one full orbit.

“We need another six years of data before we can see one whole orbit,” said Northwestern astrophysicist Jason Wang, who led the work. “We’re almost there. Patience is key.”

I have embedded the video below. Because the star in the center is so bright, its light is blocked out, so that this part of the planet’s orbit is represented by the “X” in the video.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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  • Ray Van Dune

    The most striking thing I have ever seen through a telescope is the planet Mercury moving across the face of the Sun. I used a fairly high power, so I had a vivid impression of an actual disk to the planet, and with the granular texture of the solar surface in the background, an impression of slow movement as my telescope mount was tracking sidereally. The impression of seeing a whole world moving through 3D space was riveting!

    Of course I used an aluminum solar cap on the objective end of the telescope. I was so paranoid of it accidentally falling off and frying my vision, I securely taped the foil frame in place on the telescope tube.

    Ps. The hardest part of the viewing was getting the Sun aligned in the scope view. I could not use the finder scope either (kept it covered!), and the automated mount DID NOT want to slew to tracking the Sun!!

  • David M. Cook

    63 light years away? That‘s practically next door!

  • David M. Cook

    Only 63 light years away? That‘s practically next door!

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