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Rogue Planetary Orbit for Fomalhaut b
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Rogue Planetary Orbit for Fomalhaut b

January 14, 2013
This false-color composite image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, reveals the orbital motion of the planet Fomalhaut b. Based on these observations, astronomers calculated that the planet is in a 2,000-year-long, highly elliptical orbit. The planet will appear to cross a vast belt of debris around the star roughly 20 years from now. If the planet's orbit lies in the same plane with the belt, icy and rocky debris in the belt could crash into the planet's atmosphere and produce various phenomena. The black circle at the center of the image blocks out the light from the bright star, allowing reflected light from the belt and planet to be photographed. The Hubble images were taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph in 2010 and 2012. Object Name: Fomalhaut Image Type: Astronomical/Annotated Credit: NASA, ESA, and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute)