Original From: SCOTT HAGIE To: ALL Date/Number: 02/27/94 - 0000062 On: MERCOPUS - 0724 - A

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Original From: SCOTT HAGIE To: ALL Date/Number: 02/27/94 - 0000062 On: MERCOPUS - 0724 - Astronomy-IN ----------------------------------------------------------------------- I pulled this off the Internet, and found it VERY interesting. NEW YORK (AP) -- As Archimedes said, Eureka! A scientist says he's confirmed the existence of two planets orbiting a dense star in the Milky Way Galaxy. They would be the first known planets outside our own solar system. ``The thing, to me at least, is a clear-cut case,'' Alexander Wolszczan of Pennsylvania State University said Friday. Other scientists also called the new data convincing. In 1992, Wolszczan and a colleague said they had found evidence that at least two planets were orbiting an extremely dense star called a pulsar about 1,300 light-years from Earth, in the direction of the constellation Virgo. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, about 5.9 trillion miles. One planet appeared to contain 2.8 times the mass of the Earth and orbit the pulsar every 98.2 days, at about half the distance between the Earth and sun. The other planet, with at least 3.4 times Earth's mass, appeared to orbit every 66.6 days at just over one-third the distance between the Earth and sun. The planets have not been seen directly. But the pulsar sends energy pulses toward Earth, and the evidence for the planets lay in irregularities in the pattern of those pulses. Those irregularities appeared to be caused by the pulsar's being pulled to and fro by the gravity of orbiting planets, the scientists said. Wolszczan had said more study of the irregularities should show that the planets are tugging gravitationally on each other and so altering their orbits. Friday, he said such evidence had been found and it ``confirms that what we see are planet-sized objects.'' Shri Kulkarni, an astronomy professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, called the new findings scientifically convincing and a triumph for the proposal that the planets exist. ``We know absolutely for sure now that there are planets there,'' said Frederic Rasio, a theoretical astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Besides the two planets detected originally, the data reveals a moon-sized object orbiting nearer the pulsar, and there may be still more orbiting objects, Wolszczan said. ``It sort of looks like a full-blown planetary system around that star,'' he said. There had been indications of a third planet orbiting outside the other two, but that turned out not to be true, Wolszczan said. Wolszczan announced the new data at a meeting earlier this year. His presentation is mentioned in an account of the meeting in the current issue of the journal Nature.


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