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How Will We Know What Exoplanets Look Like, and When?

8 Jan 2016, 18:50 UTC
How Will We Know What Exoplanets Look Like, and When?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

An earlier version of this article was accidently published last week before it was completed. This is the finished version, with information from this week’s AAS annual conference.
This image of a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273 was released to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the launch of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The distorted shape of the larger of the two galaxies shows signs of tidal interactions with the smaller of the two. It is thought that the smaller galaxy has actually passed through the larger one.
Let’s face it: the field of exoplanets has a significant deficit when it comes to producing drop-dead beautiful pictures.
We all know why. Exoplanets are just too small to directly image, other than as a miniscule fraction of a pixel, or perhaps some day as a full pixel. That leaves it up to artists, modelers and the travel poster-makers of the Jet Propulsion Lab to help the public to visualize what exoplanets might be like. Given the dramatic successes of the Hubble Space Telescope in imaging distant galaxies, and of telescopes like those on the Cassini mission to Saturn and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, this is no small competitive disadvantage. ...

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