Friday, December 2, 2011

Amateur astronomer captures photo of young solar system, 12.02.11

An amateur astronomer in New Zealand has managed to take and clean up a photograph of a new solar system in the works. The stunning part? He was doing it with his own, homemade, 10-inch telescope. That’s some pretty good aim!

The system is Beta Pictoris, 63 light-years away in the southern hemisphere. The system had been photographed a number of years ago by professional astronomers, but the fact that Rolf Olsen managed to first of all find the system, then photograph it and do such a good job that the “circumstellar disc” was visible, is astounding.

The circumstellar disc is the cloud of dust and debris orbiting around the star. Eventually, it should turn into planets and various other satellites. Olsen was able to expose it using a very long, detailed set of instructions that had been published in a study on the system. That he was able to achieve such good results shows again that anyone can make a contribution to astronomy if they wish.

“There certainly could be a lot of interesting things that professional astronomers have missed, that amateur astronomers could clue us in on,” wrote Bryce Croll, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an email to about Olsen’s achievement. So, hang in there, sky watchers! You just might be the next one to have a breakthrough.

Credit: Image credit: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

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