The SPHERE planet imager instrument, which was installed on the VLT (Very Large Telescope) in Chile in 2014, first discovered a new exoplanet using a camera.
For the first time, the SPHERE has discovered an exoplanet with the help of a camera on Earth. On the photo you can see the exoplanet (b). Light from his star (a) is blocked. The circle illustrates how far the distance from the star to the exoplanet is: three times the distance from Neptune to the sun.
Only a single exoplanet is discovered with a camera.
Normally the light of the star around which an exoplanet revolves is so powerful that the light that the planet itself reflects is beamed through it. The researchers must then use indirect methods to be able to determine the discovery of an exoplanet.
Now the SPHERE has succeeded in capturing a signal from a planet and photographing it a million times weaker than its star.
It's like putting a candle 50 meters from a lighthouse and then seeing the light of the flame against the lighthouse's powerful lamp, even at a distance of 775 km.
385 light years away
The SPHERE is equipped with special, distorted mirrors that correct 1200 times per second for tiny atmospheric disturbances, down to the nanoscale.
This allows the camera to take razor-sharp pictures of objects hundreds of light years away.
At the same time, the SPHERE blocks the light of the hostess with the help of a so-called chronograph, which creates a kind of artificial solar eclipse with a small disk. In this way he filters a lot away from the light that shines over the weaker light of the exoplanet.
Originally a star?
The exoplanet, which is called HIP65426b, is located at a remarkably large distance from its host: three times as far as from the sun to Neptune, the furthest planet in our galaxy.
An explanation could be that it was originally two stars that were created at the same time, the more massive of the two catching many particles that the little star could have used so well.
So the star in the making had to settle for a career as a planet.
When you face the Orion belt, you look at that part of heaven that we call the Scorpion-Centaurus Association. Here the SPHERE found the new exoplanet HIP65426b.© NASA