Gemini's First Image Shows a Planet Orbiting a Star 63 Light Years AwayS

It might not be much to look at, but this image is insanely exciting. You're looking at the first ever image of a planet, orbiting a star, over 63 light years from Earth.

Acquired by the world's most powerful planet-hunting instrument, the Gemini Planet Imager, it shows a 10-million-year-old planet called Beta Pictorus orbiting its giant parent star. It's the first such image to come from Gemini, which has been under development for over a decade but is only now producing data like this.

The Imager detects infrared radiation to readily spot young planets, whose post-formation afterglow is in that part of the spectrum, while masking light emitted by parent stars that can often interfere with images. In fact, we've written in detail about how it works in the past, so you can go read about it in depth if, like us, space telescope engineering gets you hot under the collar.

Obviously, as well as being insanely cool, images like this will help researchers understand far-off planetary system more accurately than ever before. And the best news is that, in the future, you can expect a slew of such images: currently the team is analyzing 600 other young stars and the planets that surround them. [Gemini Observatory]