Essentially, skeptics said, Fomalhaut b was dead; nothing more than a phantom dust cloud that astronomers mistook for a planet. There could be as many as 83 trillion comets in that system, with thousands of them being destroyed daily as the crash into each other, researchers said. It was the first alien planet ever directly imaged in visible light. "To me this was an extremely large number.". Three years later, pictures of the system revealed Fomalhaut and the dust ring looking almost like "the eye of Sauron," a reference from J.R.R. The object was initially announced in 2008 and confirmed as real in 2012 from images taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the Hubble Space Telescope and, according to calculations reported in January 2013, has a 1,700-year, highly-elliptical orbit. Legal Statement. Based on these observations, astronomers calculated that the planet is in a 2,000-year-long, highly elliptical orbit. (NASA, ESA, and P. Kalas), Jan. 8, 2013: This diagram shows the orbit of the exoplanet Fomalhaut b as calculated from recent Hubble Space Telescope observations. Quotes displayed in real-time or delayed by at least 15 minutes. Fomalhaut is the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus and lies 25 light-years away. Fomalhaut b was the first alien world ever directly imaged in visible light, they said. That would make the planet increase its brightness in infrared light, they added. This is not what we expected," said study leader Paul Kalas, an astronomer with the University of California at Berkeley and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., in a statement Tuesday, Jan. 8. The saga of Fomalhaut b began in November 2008, when Hubble astronomers announced that a planet circled Fomalhaut, which lies 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. The planet, which is officially known as Fomalhaut b, but is commonly dubbed "the zombie planet", has appeared and disappeared from view over time. Fomalhaut b was the first alien world ever directly imaged in visible light, they said. Touching a little on the back story here, the zombie planet is actually called, Fomalhaut b. Hubble telescope officials said astronomers plan to continue to monitor the Fomalhaut star system over the next few years and decades to see how the star system changes over time. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]. A new 2012 analysis of data in 2004 and 2006, however, revealed Fomalhaut b in three wavelengths of visible light and also did not find any brightness variations. At least one planet orbits this bright star: Fomalhaut b, which was dubbed a "zombie" planet by NASA after its 2005 discovery was debunked as gas, and then proven again in 2012. Tolkien’s mythos. Another tantalizing theory suggests Fomalhaut b may have Saturn-like rings and be destined for a spectacular crash through the debris disk around the star Fomalhaut in the year 2032. [The Brightest Stars in the Sky: A Starry Countdown]. Foxnews.com reports astronomers are struggling to explain the exoplanet’s behavior.. New observations of the planet … It was the first alien planet ever directly imaged in visible light. The unbalanced orbit of a so-called "zombie planet" in a dusty star system has astronomers struggling to explain the exoplanet's behavior. The finding was hotly debated, however. ‘T. Stranger still: The planet Fomalhaut b appears to approach with 4.6 billion miles of its star at the closest point in its orbit, then swing way out to a point about 27 billion miles away at the farthest point. The planet follows a highly elliptical orbit that carries it across a wide belt of debris encircling the bright star Fomalhaut. 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