Subaru Telescope’s Imaging Discovery Of A Second Jupiter Shows The Power And Significance Of The SEEDS Project
Astronomers in the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS) Project have recently discovered and captured an image of the least massive planet ever imaged so far–a so-called “second Jupiter”. This discovery marks an important step toward the direct imaging of much fainter Earth-like planets in the future and may lead to new models of planet formation. It also illustrates the important role that the SEEDS project plays in observational astronomy.
Exoplanets are planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, outside of our Solar System. As of July 2013, most of the 890 exoplanets reported thus far have been discovered by indirect observation techniques, e.g. monitoring the host star for radial velocity variation or planetary transits (Note 1). Such techniques require observations over at least one orbital period and are impractical for detecting planets that are widely separated from their host stars and have long orbital periods. In contrast, direct imaging may be the most important way to observe exoplanets, because it yields information about the planet’s luminosity, temperature, atmosphere, and orbit.