SPACE PHOTOS THIS WEEK: Virgin Galactic Debut and More

 SPACE PHOTOS THIS WEEK: Virgin Galactic Debut and More
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December 3, 2009--For the first time, astronomers have directly imaged a planet-like object—dubbed GJ 758 B (pictured)—orbiting a star (center) similar to our sun, Japan's Subaru Observatory announced Thursday. Less clear is whether potential companion object GJ 758 C is also within the star's orbit.

With their current number hovering around 400, discoveries of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) are practically a dime a dozen these days. But, mainly because orbiting planets are generally obscured by the blinding glares of their host stars, direct pictures of exoplanets remain extreme rarities. (See "First Pictures of Alien Planet System Revealed."

Most exoplanets are found when astronomers detect not the planet itself but its effects on its star's gravitational field or brightness.
— Image courtesy NAOJ
 
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