On November 13, 2008 NASA and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced the first-ever pictures taken from the visible spectrum of extrasolar planets. The images, which were glimpsed by the Gemini North and Keck telescopes on the Mauna Kea mountaintop in Hawaii, were the first direct images ever taken of planets outside our solar system.
"British and American researchers snapped the first ever visible-light pictures of three extrasolar planets orbiting the star HR8799. HR8799 is about 1.5 times the size of the sun, located 130 light-years away in the Pegasus constellation. Observers can probably see this star through binoculars, scientists said.
"To identify the planets, researchers compared images of the system, known to contain planets HF8799b, HF8799c, and HF8799d. In each image faint objects were detected, and by comparing images from over the years, it was confirmed that these were the planets in their expected positions and that they orbit their star in a counterclockwise direction.
"NASA's Hubble Space Telescope at about the same time picked up images of a fourth planet, somewhat unexpectedly. The new planet, Fomalhaut b orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, part of the constellation Piscis Australis (Southern Fish) and is relatively massive -- about three times the size of Jupiter. The planet orbits 10.7 billion miles from its home star and is approximately 25 light-years from Earth." (quotations from Daily Tech November 16, 2008).