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HubbleSite Hubble's Infrared Eyes Home in on Suspected Extrasolar Planet

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Space Telescope Science

The Hubble Space Telescope's near-infrared vision is hot on the trail of a possible planetary companion to a relatively bright young brown dwarf located 225 light-years away in the southern constellation Hydra. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile detected the planet candidate in April 2004 with infrared observations. The astronomers spotted a faint companion object to the brown dwarf, called 2MASSWJ 1207334-393254 (2M1207). They suspect the companion is a planet because it is dimmer and cooler than the brown dwarf. Because a planet beyond our solar system has never been imaged directly, this remarkable observation required Hubble's unique abilities to perform follow-up observations to test and validate if the object is indeed a planet. Based on the VLT and Hubble observations, astronomers are 99 percent sure that the companion is orbiting the brown dwarf.

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