Astronomers Go Nuts For Closest Exoplanet Directly Imaged Ever: COCONUTS-2b


Despite discovering more than 4000 exoplanets, most remain obscure.

Their nature — small, faint, and in tight orbits — prevent direct imaging.

The stellar glare simply overwhelms their planet’s reflected light.

However, heat-generating exoplanets are special.

Just like Jupiter, they reflect visible light, but emit their own infrared radiation.

When well-separated from their parent stars, they yield to direct imaging.

The first one ever announced was Fomalhaut b, although its planetary nature is contentious.

Since then, a few dozen exoplanets have been directly imaged, all very massive.

The lightest one, 51 Eridani b, exceeds double Jupiter’s mass.

But the closest one, newly discovered, is just 35 light-years away: COCONUTS-2b.

It was discovered back in 2011 by NASA’s WISE: a wide-field infrared telescope.

Recent work led to its identification as a widely-separated planet, bound to the dwarf star L 34-26.

It’s the second most well-separated exoplanet ever, behind TYC9486 b.

It’s also the second faintest exoplanet ever found, behind WD 0806-661 B.

The COol Companions ON Ultrawide orbiTS (COCONUTS) program is successfully identifying these massive, well-separated exoplanets.

However, rocky exoplanets cannot be directly imaged yet.

A properly equipped next-generation space telescope, like HabEx or LUVOIR, will someday reveal those worlds.

Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.



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