Click image to enlarge Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, and E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, C
In two separate scientific show-stoppers, unprecedented direct images of planets outside of our own solar system have been captured by NASA's Hubble space telescope and terrestrial observatories in Hawaii. Over the past two decades astronomers have detected around 300 exoplanets and are rapidly finding more, but these have mostly been observed by methods such as monitoring the gravitational effects of a planet on its parent star rather than seen as a direct optical image. We now have the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star from the Hubble, and the first-ever direct images of an exoplanetary system from the massive 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea.