Reviving Fomalhaut b

  • Released Thursday, October 25th, 2012
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM
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A second look at data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reanimating the claim that the nearby star Fomalhaut hosts a massive exoplanet. The study suggests that the planet, named Fomalhaut b, is a rare and possibly unique object that is completely shrouded by dust.

Fomalhaut is the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus and lies 25 light-years away.

In November 2008, Hubble astronomers announced the exoplanet, named Fomalhaut b, as the first one ever directly imaged in visible light around another star. The object was imaged just inside a vast ring of debris surrounding but offset from the host star. The planet's location and mass — about three times Jupiter's — seemed just right for its gravity to explain the ring's appearance.

Recent studies have claimed that this planetary interpretation is incorrect. Based on the object's apparent motion and the lack of an infrared detection by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, they argue that the object is a short-lived dust cloud unrelated to any planet.

A new analysis, however, brings the planet conclusion back to life.

Watch this video on YouTube.

On November 13, 2008 Fomalhaut b was announced as an exoplanet.  Then on January 20, 2012, a paper was published calling this status into question.  Now, a new study has reanimated this formerly "dead" exoplanet.

On November 13, 2008 Fomalhaut b was announced as an exoplanet. Then on January 20, 2012, a paper was published calling this status into question. Now, a new study has reanimated this formerly "dead" exoplanet.

On November 13, 2008 Fomalhaut b was announced as an exoplanet.  Then on January 20, 2012, a paper was published calling this status into question.  Now, a new study has reanimated this formerly "dead" exoplanet.  Alternate version.

On November 13, 2008 Fomalhaut b was announced as an exoplanet. Then on January 20, 2012, a paper was published calling this status into question. Now, a new study has reanimated this formerly "dead" exoplanet. Alternate version.

This visible-light image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the vicinity of the star Fomalhaut, including the location of its dust ring and disputed planet, Fomalhaut b. A coronagraphic mask helped dim the star's brightness. This view combines two 2006 observations that were taken with masks of different sizes (1.8 and 3 arcseconds). Labels.Credit: NASA/ESA/T. Currie (U. Toronto)

This visible-light image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the vicinity of the star Fomalhaut, including the location of its dust ring and disputed planet, Fomalhaut b. A coronagraphic mask helped dim the star's brightness. This view combines two 2006 observations that were taken with masks of different sizes (1.8 and 3 arcseconds). Labels.

Credit: NASA/ESA/T. Currie (U. Toronto)

This visible-light image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the vicinity of the star Fomalhaut, including the location of its dust ring and disputed planet, Fomalhaut b. A coronagraphic mask helped dim the star's brightness. This view combines two 2006 observations that were taken with masks of different sizes (1.8 and 3 arcseconds). No Labels.Credit: NASA/ESA/T. Currie (U. Toronto)

This visible-light image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the vicinity of the star Fomalhaut, including the location of its dust ring and disputed planet, Fomalhaut b. A coronagraphic mask helped dim the star's brightness. This view combines two 2006 observations that were taken with masks of different sizes (1.8 and 3 arcseconds). No Labels.

Credit: NASA/ESA/T. Currie (U. Toronto)

This is an artist's impression of the exoplanet, Fomalhaut b, orbiting its sun, Fomalhaut.

Credit:ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser) and ESO (L. Cal

Formation of a ring around an extrasolar planet (artist's impression)

Credit: ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)

View and download multiple formats of this video at ESA/Hubble's website.

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NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual images should be credited as indicated above.


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  • Fomalhaut b Zombie (ID: 2012111)
    Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 4:00AM
    Produced by - Robert Crippen

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