Methane Enshrouds Nearby Jupiter-like Exoplanet

August 24, 2015

Gpiplanet750 An artistic conception of the Jupiter-like exoplanet, 51 Eri b, seen in the near-infrared light that shows the hot layers deep in its atmosphere glowing through clouds. Because of its young age, this cousin of our own Jupiter is still hot and carries information on the way it was formed 20 million years ago. (Image by Danielle Futselaar and Franck Marchis, SETI Institute)

From article by Robert Sanders:

"The Gemini Planet Imager has discovered and photographed its first planet, a methane-enshrouded gas giant much like Jupiter that may hold the key to understanding how large planets form in the swirling accretion disks around stars.

The GPI instrument, which is mounted on the 8-meter Gemini South telescope in Chile, is the size of a small car and was designed, built and optimized for imaging and analyzing the atmospheres of faint Jupiter-like planets next to bright stars, thanks to a device that masks the star’s glare.

“This is exactly the kind of planet we envisioned discovering when we designed GPI,” said James Graham, a UC Berkeley professor of astronomy and the GPI project scientist. “We wanted to find planets when they’re young so we can figure out the formation process.”

Read complete article here.