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First image of another solar system captured

Last updated: 27 November, 2011
London, Nov 27, PTI: 22:50 IST

An astronomer in New Zealand claims to have captured the first amateur pictures of another solar system from a tiny telescope in his back yard.

Rolf Olsen, a New Zealand-based astrophotographer, has published the first non-professional pictures of the disk of debris and dust swirling around Beta Pictoris, a very young solar system.

Incredibly, the 12 million-year-old system, some 60 million light years away from our own, was captured with only a 25cm telescope, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported. The material that forms the proto-planetary disc around Beta Pictoris has been photographed by large observatories before, but it was not thought possible for amateurs to take a picture of the system, due to the glare from the star itself.

But by capturing an image of a similar star and subtracting it from the picture of Beta Pictoris, Olsen was able to eliminate the stellar glare, revealing the dust disk.

Olsen says he first gathered fifty images of Beta Pictoris. Then he collected similar pictures of another star that is similar in colour and brightness Alpha Pictoris. He subtracted the image of the second star, removing the glare.

The raw image of the material disc looked scrappy, so he blended it with the original image of Beta Pictoris using photo editing software. Olsen wrote on his website: “The result is, I believe, the first amateur image of another solar system: The proto-planetary disc around Beta Pictoris. I must say it feels really special to have actually captured this.”

Olsen’s observatory is located in Titirangi in the foothills of Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland.

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