November 14th, 2008

star-forming nebula

Astro-Image of the Day: Hubble Photographs Alien World!

This is huge, amazing, wowza! Today - November 13, 2008 - the Hubble Space Telescope took the first photograph of a planet orbiting another sun. The planet has a name - Fomalhaut b, because it orbits Fomalhaut - which I think should be much more interesting, considering the historic nature of its discovery. Fomalhaut b, which I'll call Super-Wowza-Planet FB! is only 25 light-years away, so if intelligent life inhabits this place, they've been listening to our radio broadcasts for generations.

Without further ado, here's the photo:

Click the image to see the story.

Just wow. If it weren't so late, I'd write more. Wow.

(I've been away from teh intarwebs for most of the day due to creating this "How to Make a Website" tutorial for my students [1/3 of it is only for KU people], taking a visiting scholar out to dinner for KU, attending his talk, and discussing his theories and more afterward over beer. A great day. But it meant that I only now saw the news.)

Did I mention wow? WOW!


Astro-Image of the Day: More (and bigger) images of the newly discovered alien world

So yesterday, NASA released the first direct photograph of an alien world (see my WOW! post from last night). Turns out one can download a variety of huge, massive versions of the original photograph here - from before scientists identified the planet, Fomalhaut b (could it be Fomalhaut 2 from LeGuin's Rocannon's World?):

Click the image to see the images.

As I wrote in response to a comment yesterday, seeing a photograph of an alien world feels like we're living in the future, or we've pulled aside the curtains of the world that we didn't even know were there, shrouding reality and limiting our sense of the universe. There is no greater pleasure in life than those moments of discovery, of grasping the what-ness of things. Yeah. This is why my post was all Wow!