Little Planet Lovejoy
Little Planet Lovejoy
by Alex Cherney
Once a bright apparition in the southern hemisphere dawn Comet Lovejoy is fading, but its long tail still stretches across skies near the south celestial pole. Captured on the morning of December 30th, the comet appears near edge of this little planet as well.
Of course, the little planet is actually planet Earth and the image was created from a 12 frame mosaic used to construct a spherical panorama. The type of stereographic projection used to map the image pixels is centered directly below the camera and is known as the little planet projection.
Stars surrounding this little planet were above the photographer’s cloudy horizon near the Bay of Islands on the Great Ocean Road in southern Victoria, Australia. Running alongside the Milky Way the comet can be identified, with other celestial highlights. Very bright stars Canopus and Sirius are right of the little planet.
Newest Planet Discovered in 2011
A rocky planet the same size as the Earth has been discovered orbiting a star like our sun.
It is the first time a planet of this size has been detected in another solar system. Scientists have hailed the technical achievement of detecting Earth sized ‘exoplanets’ - the technical term for planets outside the solar system - as it increases the chances of finding life-bearing worlds.
Although the planet, Kepler-20f could have a thick water-vapour atmosphere, its surface is believed to be too hot for life.
Kepler 20f has been hailed as a major discovery - it’s the first earth-sized planet found orbiting a star like our own Sun
‘This could be an important milestone. I think 10 years or maybe even 100 years from now people will look back and ask when the first Earth-sized planet was found. It is very exciting,’ says Dr Fessin
A second planet in the same system, Kepler-20e, is only slightly smaller than Earth and even hotter.
Both worlds circle their parent star closely with ‘years’ that last just nine and sixteen days respectively.
Dr Francois Fressin, one of the astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, US, said: ‘It is the first time humanity has been able to discover an object similar to the Earth around a star, so maybe we will be able to find others.
‘This could be an important milestone. I think 10 years or maybe even 100 years from now people will look back and ask when was the first Earth-sized planet found. It is very exciting.’