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Smallest exo-planet found to be in the pink

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pinkplanet1From Hawaii’s Subaru Telescope, an image of a very pink planet as been recorded. Planet GJ 504b is the smallest world discovered so far orbiting another star. The exoplanet is colder than scientists had predicted, and is of a dark magenta color, as shown by infrared imaging.

The pink globe is circling GJ 504, a star of some magnitude in the Virgo constellation. GJ 504 is a bit hotter than our sun, and is just visible to the unaided eye, but easily seen through a telescope. The star and its pink companion are 57 light-years from Earth.

Despite being the tiniest planet captured by a camera that is orbiting a star nearly like our own sun, GJ 504 is no second earth. It is a gas giant like Jupiter, but four times as large as our solar system’s largest world. It flies around its sun at a distance more than 43 times Earth’s distance from our sun, almost four billion miles. Astronomers predict the temperature in its clouds to be around 460 degrees Fahrenheit.

SEEDS (Strategic Exploration of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru) is the program conducted by the Hawaiian telescope complex during which the new world was discovered. Telescopes using infrared and near-infrared settings are deployed to find new planets around sun-like stars. Part of the goal is to better understand how systems of planets are originally formed. The kind of direct imaging used allows astronomers to monitor an exoplanet’s  orbit, temperature, luminosity and atmosphere.pinkplanet3

One difficulty is separating the relatively-faint light from a planet, no matter how large, from the light of the star it orbits. The Subaru Telescope has two tools that specifically assist in this: the Infrared Camera and Spectrograph, and the High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics.

The complete report on exoplanet GJ 504b will be available in The Astrophysical Journal.

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