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Video of exoplanet's 17-year journey around its star released

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
The exoplanet is located in the constellation Pictor at a distance of about 63 light years from Earth. Source: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser/NASA/OBOZREVATEL collage

Scientists have managed to create a fantastic time-lapse of how the distant exoplanet Beta Pictoris b orbits its star. Over 17 years of observations, scientists have managed to capture a 10-second time-lapse showing how the planet covers about 75% of its orbit.

The video was created by astrophysicists from Northwestern University. Despite the fact that it lasts only 10 seconds, it is the longest time-lapse of an exoplanet as of 2023.

To create the video, real data was used to show how Beta Painter b orbits its star at an inclination. The footage was captured over 17 years of observations from 2003 to 2020, and shows about 75% of the exoplanet's orbit.

"We need another six years of data before we can see the entire orbit," said Northwestern University astrophysicist Jason Wang, who led the work.

The constellation Pictor, in which the exoplanet is located, is located at a distance of about 63 light-years from Earth.

The giant exoplanet orbits its star Beta Pictoris at a distance of about 10 times the Earth-Sun distance. The star itself is 1.75 times bigger than our sun.

Scientists say that this is a very young star, only 20-26 million years old, and now it shines about 8.7 times brighter than our Sun.

This brightness allowed scientists to detect and photograph the exoplanet for the first time in history.

"It is very bright. That's why it's one of the first exoplanets ever discovered and directly photographed," said Wang.

To create the time-lapse, the scientists used their own data, as well as data on the exoplanet obtained from the Gemini Observatory and the European Southern Observatory. Subsequently, an AI image processing technique called motion interpolation was also applied. The AI processing was needed to fill in the gaps in the data where the planet jumps and create a video showing its continuous smooth orbit.

"If we had just merged the images, the video would have looked very jerky because we hadn't observed the system every day for 17 years," Wang said.

The AI algorithm smoothed out the jitter and made the video look like the planet was actually observed every day.

The black circle and the star icon in the centre of the image are intentionally superimposed to get rid of the glare from Beta Painter. But even such an "eclipse" of the star does not save scientists from the fact that the star illuminates the planet when it approaches. When a planet becomes "invisible", it is marked with a cross to make it clear where it is moving.

According to Wang, sometimes physics and various formulas can seem very abstract, and graphs are not always inspiring, so he believes that seeing a film with your own eyes about what is happening in space is very exciting.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL also published a video showing 100 million years of Earth's evolution.

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