SETI [ASTRO] First Image of 'Possible Planet' Most Likely a Star

Larry Klaes (
Mon, 28 Jun 1999 12:41:39 -0400

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender to owner-astro using -f >Date: Sun, 27 Jun 1999 13:25:21 GMT >From: Ron Baalke <> >To: >Subject: [ASTRO] First Image of 'Possible Planet' Most Likely a Star >Sender: >Reply-To: Ron Baalke <> > >SCIENCE NEWS > >For further information, contact SCIENCE NEWS at 202-872-5119. > >For Immediate Release: June 25, 1999 > >First Image of 'Possible Planet' Most Likely a Star > >New data indicate that the object described last year as probably the first >extrasolar planet to be imaged is more likely just a run-of-the-mill star. >At a widely reported press briefing in May 1998, NASA unveiled Hubble Space >Telescope images that astronomer Sue Terebey of the Extrasolar Research >Corp. in Pasdena, Calif., said might show a planet born to a pair of stars >450 light-years from Earth. The images made headlines because they could >go down in history as the first ever taken of a planet outside the solar >system. But several astronomers recently told Science News that additional >data, which Terebey presented at two meetings this month, strongly suggest >that the object is too hot to be a planet. > >Instead, it is "almost certainly a normal reddened star," says Keith S. Noll >of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Details appear in the >June 26 issue of SCIENCE NEWS, a weekly news magazine. > >Terebey told SCIENCE NEWS that she would not talk to reporters until next >month. By then, she said, she will have had time to assimilate comments >from the scientists who had seen her new data and to submit a research >article to a peer-reviewed journal. > >According to several scientists who attended her presentations, Terebey >acknowledged that the spectrum she has now obtained of the faint object, >dubbed TMR-1C, reveals that it does not contain water vapor, which should >be present if it were a planet with a temperature lower than 2,500 K. >Because water is abundant in the cosmos, its absence is a reliable indicator >of a high temperature, Noll explains. > >Terebey presented her spectrum, taken at the Keck telescopes atop Hawaii's >Mauna Kea, on June 9 at a meeting on giant planets and cool stars in >Flagstaff, Ariz., and on June 17 at a Gordon Research Conference on the >origin of the solar system in Henneker, N.H. According to astronomers at the >two meetings, Terebey acknowledged that the spectrum could be that of a >star. However, she also suggested that the object might be a failed star, >known as a brown dwarf, or a planet that is warmer and possibly younger >than she had first thought. > >Terebey showed that the spectrum of an ordinary, low-mass star, partly >obscured by foreground dust, roughly matches her spectrum of TMR-1C, >according to astronomers who heard her Flagstaff presentation. > >This "implies strongly" that TMR-1C is just a background star, says Mark >S. Marley of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, an organizer of >the Flagstaff meeting. "It is a real stretch of the data to claim anything >else." > >"In my opinion, it is a waste of time and bad science to keep pursuing this >idea [of a planet] when a much simpler and more likely alternative is >supported by all the evidence," says Noll. "Extrasolar planets are one of >current astronomy's holy grails, and so there is strong temptation to see >them where one want to see them. But in this case, the data seems to be >saying quite clearly that this extrasolar planet was an illusion." > >[NOTE: Full article in the June 26 SCIENCE NEWS is available at >] > >

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sun Jul 11 1999 - 00:43:15 PDT