NZer captures first photos of another solar system

By The Daily Mail

Rolf Olsen's photo of debris and dust swirling around Beta Pictoris. Photo / Rolf Olsen
Rolf Olsen's photo of debris and dust swirling around Beta Pictoris. Photo / Rolf Olsen

An astronomer has 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 was captured with only a 25cm telescope.

The material that forms the proto-planetary disc around Beta Pictoris has been photographed by large observatories often before, but it was not thought possible for amateurs to take a picture of the system, because of 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 got the idea by reading a 1993 Harvard paper titled 'Observation of the central part of the beta Pictoris disk with an anti-blooming CCD'.

First he 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.

But even so the picture is being hailed as 'a milestone.'

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 the Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland, New Zealand.

The area benefits from low levels of air pollution and high altitude dust which make the sky more transparent, and living between rainforest and sea makes for a dark sky.

The latitude of -37 degrees gives the astronomer with an 80 per cent view of both hemispheres.

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