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Watch distant worlds dance around their sun

Stunning new time lapse video shows 12 years of exoplanets orbiting their star

In 2008, HR8799 was the first extrasolar planetary system ever directly imaged. Now, the famed system stars in its very own video.

Using observations collected over the past 12 years, Northwestern University astrophysicist Jason Wang has assembled a stunning time lapse video of the family of four planets — each more massive than Jupiter — orbiting their star. The video gives viewers an unprecedented glimpse into planetary motion.

“It’s usually difficult to see planets in orbit,” Wang said. “For example, it isn’t apparent that Jupiter or Mars orbit our sun because we live in the same system and don’t have a top-down view. Astronomical events either happen too quickly or too slowly to capture in a movie. But this video shows planets moving on a human time scale. I hope it enables people to enjoy something wondrous.”

An expert in exoplanet imaging, Wang is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA).

HR8799 is a compact star located 133.3 light-years away from Earth in the Pegasus constellation. Although this seems unfathomably far away, HR8799 is considered within our “solar neighborhood.” Compared to our sun, HR8799 is 1.5 times more massive and roughly 5 times more luminous. It also is much younger. At around 30 million years young, the system formed after the dinosaurs went extinct.

Continue to the full Northwestern News Story.

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