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FAQ - Extrasolar Planets

1. Are directly imaged planets those that can be detected from Earth? Or by spacecraft?

This answer assumes the question is in regards to extra-solar planets (exoplanets). To date, 12 exoplanets have been imaged around 10 stars (3 around 1 star). Of these, all but two were first observed with large, groundbased telescopes using techniques to block out the light from the star and/or observing in the infrared where the planet is brighter relative to the star. The other two were first observed with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Two of the planets were observed (one from the ground and one from HST) because of previously-observed dust disks. Most of the planets are far from the stars they orbit (12-670 AU away). Also, all of the stars observed are very young. This helps make the planets easier to see as they are still cooling down from when the planetary system formed. Also, many of the stars are smaller than the Sun, so that they are giving off less light and this makes it easier to see planets.

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