The exquisite poetry of exoplanets

With all that’s been going on, sometimes it’s nice to remember how beautiful the universe is. And just to prove that, here’s a video of the four large planets of the star HR 8799, gently revolving around it.  They’re big and distant — all four planets are estimated to be larger than Jupiter, and the closest-in one has a forty-year orbit.  (The most distant takes ten times longer to orbit the star.)  And there’s an extra bit of beauty here: the planets are in a resonance of 1:2:4:8.

This isn’t a real movie, in the sense of being tape-recorded.  Instead, it was constructed from eight images taken with the Keck telescope in Hawaii since 2009, with the paths of the worlds interpolated between frames to create smooth motion.  It’s not the first direct image of exoplanets, nor the first video showing their motion, but it is decidedly beautiful.



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