Direct Imaging of Multiple Planets Orbiting the Star HR 8799
Direct imaging of exoplanetary systems is a powerful technique that can reveal Jupiter-like planets in wide orbits, can enable detailed characterization of planetary atmospheres, and is a key step toward imaging Earth-like planets. Imaging detections are challenging because of the combined effect of small angular separation and large luminosity contrast between a planet and its host star. High-contrast observations with the Keck and Gemini telescopes have revealed three planets orbiting the star HR 8799, with projected separations of 24, 38, and 68 astronomical units. Multi-epoch data show counter clockwise orbital motion for all three imaged planets. The low luminosity of the companions and the estimated age of the system imply planetary masses between 5 and 13 times that of Jupiter. This system resembles a scaled-up version of the outer portion of our solar system.