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Astronomers observe smallest exoplanet to date via direct imaging
Posted: Wed, Jun 5, 2013, 8:56 AM ET (1256 GMT)
HD 95086 b exoplanet (ESO) European astronomers announced this week the discovery of the smallest extrasolar planet to date that has been directly observed by telescopes. The planet, HD 95086 b, has an estimated mass of four to five times that of Jupiter and orbits its star at about twice the distance Neptune orbits the Sun. Astronomers spotted the planet in images taken by one of the 8.2-meter telescopes of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, observing at infrared wavelengths and using adaptive optics to correct for distortions caused by Earth's atmosphere. Most exoplanets discovered to date have not been seen directly, but instead indirectly detected as they transit across their stars' disks, causing minute decreases in the stars' brightness, or through periodic Doppler shift variations in stellar spectra as the planets' orbits cause gravitational wobbles in the star.
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