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Spitzer Telescope used to directly detect exoplanets:

The image below is an artist rendition of how the Spitzer Space Telescope can see an exoplanet - using infrared wavelengths.

Spitzer Planet

This news is almost a year old, but I do not recall any wide distribution of this rather remarkable bit of information. It seems the Spitzer Space Telescope has a new, recently discovered talent - direct detection of exoplanets.

Of all the methods used to determine the existence of extoplanets, only direct viewing of the planet itself counts as a direct detection. This means that the transit method, radial velocity method (detecting the wobble) and even the rather new method of microlensing are all indirect methods of detection. Because the planet is much cooler than the host star, an infrared telescope is perfect for direct detection. The mirror of an infrared telescope must be very cool in order to detect such a faint object. The answer is the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The Spitzer has confirmed the existence of two "hot Jupiters," HD209458b and TrES-1 by direct detection. A "hot Jupiter" is a Jupiter mass planet that is close to its host star. There is a downside to using the Spitzer, and that is its limitations - directly detecting only warmer planets like "hot-Jupiters" that are in the range of 1000 Kelvin.

Image credit and additional information can be found at the NASA Origins website.


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