Monday, January 7, 2008

I spy, with my little eye...

Okay, this is now getting almost scary. In a cool way. They're actually detecting reflected light off "Hot Jupiters" using polarization that I suspect is a degree or two more sophisticated than can be had on your average pair of Ray Bans.
Zurich -- The ability to explore remote worlds in space has been enhanced
through a polarization technique that allows the first ever detection of
light reflected by extrasolar (exoplanet) planets. The study has been
accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Svetlana Berdyugina
of ETH Zurich's Institute of Astronomy, has for the first time ever been
able to detect and monitor the visible light that is scattered in the
atmosphere of an exoplanet. Employing techniques similar to how Polaroid
sunglasses filter away reflected sunlight to reduce glare, the team of
scientists were able to extract polarized light to enhance the faint
reflected starlight 'glare' from an exoplanet. As a result, the scientists
could infer the size of its swollen atmosphere. They also directly traced
the orbit of the planet, a feat of visualization not possible using indirect

What's the over/under on actual photographs of extrasolar planets? I say 20 years, and that may be too conservative an estimate...

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