Dec 10, 2008 | 3
It was front-page news when astronomer Paul Kalas of the University of California, Berkeley, and his team produced the first photographic evidence of a planet orbiting another star last month. (Another team, publishing simultaneously, announced similar results around a different star.) But at least one person in the field was not surprised: astronomer Alice Quillen of the University of Rochester had predicted the existence of just such a planet, in just such an orbit, in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters in October 2006.
Two years ago, Quillen examined the debris disk around a star 25 light-years away known as Fomalhaut. She hypothesized that the features of the disk implied that there ought to be a planet, whose mass lay between that of Neptune and Saturn, orbiting nearby, some 119 astronomical units (AU) from Fomalhaut. (An astronomical unit is roughly the distance between Earth and the sun.)
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