Extrasolar Planets: I
I have decided, that slowly, I will introduce the topic of extrasolar planets here as I often speak about them I though it might naturally be a good idea to give you a bit of an incite further than me going “ooh look another one”. Anyway lets start at the begining like any good story…
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)
Can we add “and extrasolar planets”? I’m not sure if we could use this definition with the IAU for how planets are created! Anyway moving away from that I’m not going to bore you with formation models, yet. Instead I thought I would describe the first and probably the most important finding in modern planetary physics, and no I am not talking about “senda” or “xena” or whatever crazy name they give to the new solar system candidate planets. I am talking about PSR B1257+12 and 4 objects around it. PSR B1257+12 is a pulsar that is some 980 light years away (1 Light Year (ly) is the Distance Traveled by Light in 1 Year.. thats a long way away!). This object lies in the constellation of Virgo and was discovered by Polish astronomer Aleksander Wolszczan in 1990 using the Arecibo radio telescope. It is a millisecond pulsar, a kind of neutron star, and was found to have anomalies in the pulsation period, this is not normal for this kind of object and led to the discovery of the planets. It was odd to think that planets would exist around objects like this. The whole scientific community at the time needed some convincing but once the evidence was put forward it was quite hard to say no to it (the research paper for this can be found on [ADS]).
I intend to keep up this small series over the next few weeks discribing a few other systems and some key physics.