1st Exoplanet Seen In Visible Light Spectrum

Astronomers have had the adventure of looking for alien planets in our galaxy for a long time, and have discovered more than 1,000 exoplanets–including 51 Pegasi b in the Pegasus constellation–but only now have they been able to view this world in the visible light spectrum.

Found originally in 1995, 51 Pegasi b is the first exoplanet that was discovered orbiting around a star similar to our own sun and it is about 50 light years away, round in the Pegasus star constellation. It’s what is known as a “hot Jupiter” which means it belongs to a type of planet that is like Jupiter in size and mass, however, its orbiting travel route is a lot closer to its sun than Jupiter does.

Taking a Second Look at Known Exoplanet

Now, for the first time ever, astronomers taking another look at this exoplanet have been able to view it in the visible light spectrum by using the HARPS or High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher tool on the telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. This is a noteworthy accomplishment because normally scientists use a different method to find and take a look at these planets outside of our own solar system.

Normally, they view them using the planet’s sun’s spectrum as it filters through the exoplanet’s atmosphere, which is called transmission spectroscopy. Or, yet another way to observe these alien planets is to watch as its sun makes its travel in front of the planet and in that way the scientists can determine the planet’s surface temperature.

Visible Light Spectrum Possibly Helps Study More Exoplanets

By using a method of visible light spectrum to find and study exoplanets, it means the astronomers don’t have to know its transit, so they can possibly help to learn about other exoplanets as they travel out there in space. The planet’s sun’s spectrum would be used as a guide to find the kind of light reflection that would be produced by a planet going around it.

Scientists say that using visible light spectrum is also better because it makes it possible to record the exoplanet’s actual mass and orbit, and that helps them to better understand it and its features such as its atmosphere and type of planetary surface structure. All in all, scientists are working all the time to improve the methods and the instruments used to help find these exoplanets and other interesting things out in space so they can study them. Besides the telescope used in this case to view 51 Pegasi b in visible light spectrum, the astronomers are awaiting even better gear, such as the ESPRESSO, which is the Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations, a type of extremely stable Optical High Resolution Spectrograph that helps focus the VLT or Europe’s Very Large Telescope in Northern Chile.

The universal fascination with flight as well as all above is captured in this short about a hot air balloon festival in Mexico: