Extrasolar Planet Candidate Imaged

Astronomers believe they have captured the first-ever image of a planet outside our own solar system. This extrasolar planet orbits a brown dwarf called 2MASSWJ 1207334-393254 (or 2M1207 for short.) The image was captured by the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) on the Hubble Space Telescope.

The first extrasolar planet was discovered in 1994 and the science of observing such planets is in its infancy. Several missions are planned over the next two decades to detect even more extrasolar planets, including planets the size of the Earth or smaller, and to eventually image them in such detail that individual features such as continents could be picked out.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory maintains a website devoted to this exploration. The current tally for discovered extrasolar planets stands at 134.

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