I've not had a lot of time to catch up with the news today, but did notice that the BBC and CNN had headlines about the latest big news in astronomy, the first images of planets around another star - "exoplanets" for want of a better name. I'm also a little confused because I blogged about a similar discovery a few weeks ago in "A long way away", but I need to read the actual papers first to understand my confusion.
This is clearly a major step forward in astronomy, but it might be worth reading a somewhat more cynical view from a cosmologist in "When you've seen one planet....". Well, that's science and astronomy, we all hold different views about what's important or not. I'm an astronomer that's interested in the Galaxy and has also indulged, occasionally, with the Solar System as well. Peter's a cosmologist and is interested in the universe itself.
In this case though, I actually lean towards Peter's view. We already know planets orbit other stars so what's the big deal? On the other hand I do feel this is a significant moment in observational astronomy. Given the opportunity I would certainly be proud to be the person who first imaged a planet around another star, but is this real science? It is just taking a picture after all.
What's significant, in my opinion, is that we can now do this.
Imaging planets around other stars is very difficult - it requires telescopes with technology we didn't have a few years ago - telescopes with current capabilities that the designers, engineers and astronomers didn't have in mind but have been implemented nevertheless.
Whether you're solar system expert, a Galactic astronomer, a cosmologist or just someone who's interested in astronomy, I think you have to agree that this is worth a little media attention.