51 Pegasi b

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Bellerophon (51 Pegasi b - HD 217014b)
Exoplanet List of exoplanets
Parent star
Star 51 Pegasi
Constellation Pegasus
Right ascension (α) 22h 57m 28.0s
Declination (δ) +20° 46′ 08″
Apparent magnitude (mV) 5.49
Distance 50.9 ± 0.3 ly
(15.61 ± 0.09 pc)
Spectral type G2.5IVa or G4-5Va
Mass (m) 1.06 M
Radius (r) 1.237 ± 0.047 R
Temperature (T) 5571 ± 102 K
Metallicity [Fe/H] 0.20 ± 0.07
Age 6.1-8.1 Gyr
Orbital elements
Semi-major axis (a) 0.0527 ± 0.0030 AU
(7.89 Gm)
Periastron (q) 0.0520 AU
(7.79 Gm)
Apastron (Q) 0.0534 AU
(7.99 Gm)
Eccentricity (e) 0.013 ± 0.012
Orbital period (P) 4.230785 ± 0.000036 d
    (101.5388 h)
Orbital speed (υ) 136 km/s
Argument of
(ω) 58°
Time of periastron (T0) 2,450,001.51 ± 0.61 JD
Semi-amplitude (K) 55.94 ± 0.69 m/s
Physical characteristics
Minimum mass (m sin i) 0.472 ± 0.039 MJ
Stellar flux (F) 480
Rotation period (ω) Synchronous
Temperature (T) 1284 ± 19
Discovery information
Discovery date 6 October 1995
Discoverer(s) Michel Mayor and
Didier Queloz
Discovery method Radial velocity (ELODIE)
Discovery site OHP, France
Discovery status Published
Other designations
Database references
Extrasolar Planets
Exoplanet Archive data
Open Exoplanet Catalogue data

51 Pegasi b (abbreviated 51 Peg b), sometimes unofficially named Bellerophon, is an extrasolar planet approximately 50 light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus. 51 Pegasi b was the first planet to be discovered orbiting a main-sequence star,[1] the Sun-like 51 Pegasi, and marked a breakthrough in astronomical research. (The first exoplanet discovery was made by Aleksander Wolszczan in 1992, around pulsar PSR 1257.) It is the prototype for a class of planets called hot Jupiters.


This artist’s view shows the hot Jupiter exoplanet 51 Pegasi b.
The radial velocity trend of 51 Pegasi that indicates the presence of an unseen companion.

The name 51 Pegasi b is the official astronomical name of the planet. As with all extrasolar planets, the 'b' is used to indicate that this planet was the first discovered orbiting its parent star. Further undiscovered planets of 51 Pegasi would be designated c, d, e, f, and so on. All extrasolar planets have lowercase letters to differentiate from companion stars in the system (which are designated with an uppercase letter).

51 Pegasi b is sometimes unofficially referred to as "Bellerophon".[2] This name comes from the Greek hero Bellerophon, who tamed Pegasus (the Winged Horse). This refers to the planet's constellation, Pegasus. This name is usually used as the informal name to show the similarities to the planets of the Solar System. The same argument and association with the constellation of host star was used to suggest informal names for other extrasolar planets.[3]

The planet and its host star is one of the planetary systems selected by the International Astronomical Union as part of their public process for giving proper names to exoplanets and their host star (where no proper name already exists).[4][5] The process involves public nomination and voting for the new names, and the IAU plans to announce the new names in mid-November 2015.[6]


The location of 51 Pegasi in Pegasus.

The exoplanet's discovery was announced on October 6, 1995, by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of the University of Geneva in the journal Nature.[7] They used the radial velocity method with the ELODIE spectrograph on the Observatoire de Haute-Provence telescope in France and making world headlines with their announcement.

The planet was discovered using a sensitive spectroscope that could detect the slight and regular velocity changes in the star's spectral lines of around 70 metres per second. These changes are caused by the planet's gravitational effects from just 7 million kilometres' distance from the star.

On October 12, 1995, less than a week after the announcement of the discovery, confirmation came from Geoffrey Marcy and Paul Butler of the University of California, Berkeley, using the Hamilton Spectrograph at the Lick Observatory near San Jose in California.

This was the first discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star. It marked a turning point and forced astronomers to accept that giant planets could exist in short-period orbits. Once astronomers realized that it was worth looking for giant planets with the currently available technology, much more telescope time was devoted to radial velocity planet searches, and hence many more exoplanets in the Sun's neighborhood have been discovered.

Physical characteristics[edit]

After its discovery, many teams confirmed the planet's existence and obtained more observations of its properties. It was discovered that the planet orbits the star in around 4 days. It is much closer to it than Mercury is to the Sun,[1] moves at an orbital speed of 136 km/s, yet has a minimum mass about half that of Jupiter (about 150 times that of the Earth). At the time, the presence of a huge world so close to its star was not compatible with theories of planet formation and was considered an anomaly. However, since then, numerous other 'hot Jupiters' have been discovered[1] (see 55 Cancri and τ Boötis, for example), and astronomers are revising their theories of planet formation to account for them by studying orbital migration.

Assuming the planet is perfectly grey with no greenhouse or tidal effects, and a Bond albedo of 0.1, the temperature would be 1265 K (approximately 1000 °C / 1800 °F). This is between the predicted temperatures of HD 189733 b and HD 209458 b (1180–1392 K), before they were measured.[8]

In the report of the discovery it was initially speculated that 51 Pegasi b was the stripped core of a brown dwarf that formed in situ and was therefore composed of heavy elements, but it is now believed to be a gas giant. It is sufficiently massive that its thick atmosphere is not blown away by the star's solar wind.

51 Pegasi b probably has a greater radius than that of Jupiter despite its lower mass. This is because its superheated atmosphere must be puffed up into a thick but tenuous layer surrounding it. Beneath this, the gases that make up the planet would be so hot that the planet would glow red. Clouds of silicates may exist in the atmosphere.

The planet is tidally locked to its star, always presenting the same face to it.

The planet (with Upsilon Andromedae b) is deemed a candidate for direct imaging by Planetpol.[9] It is also a candidate for "near-infrared characterisation.... with the VLTI Spectro-Imager".[8]

The earlier, rocky-planet model was utilized as a setting by Hal Clement in the story Exchange Rate.

Direct detection of visible light[edit]

The first ever direct detection of the visible light spectrum reflected from an exoplanet has been made by an international team of astronomers on 51 Pegasi b. The astronomers studied light from 51 Pegasi b using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c How the Universe Works 3. Jupiter: Destroyer or Savior?. Discovery Channel. 2014. 
  2. ^ http://jumk.de/astronomie/exoplanets/51-pegasi.shtml
  3. ^ Lyra (October 21, 2009). "Naming the extrasolar planets". arXiv:0910.3989 [astro-ph.EP]. 
  4. ^ NameExoWorlds: An IAU Worldwide Contest to Name Exoplanets and their Host Stars. IAU.org. 9 July 2014
  5. ^ NameExoWorlds.
  6. ^ NameExoWorlds.
  7. ^ Mayor, Michael; Queloz, Didier (1995). "A Jupiter-mass companion to a solar-type star". Nature 378 (6555): 355–359. Bibcode:1995Natur.378..355M. doi:10.1038/378355a0. 
  8. ^ a b Renard, S.; Absil, O.; Berger, J. -P.; Bonfils, X.; Forveille, T.; Malbet, F. (2008). "Prospects for near-infrared characterisation of hot Jupiters with the VLTI Spectro-Imager (VSI)". Proceedings of SPIE. Optical and Infrared Interferometry 7013: 70132Z. arXiv:0807.3014. Bibcode:2008SPIE.7013E..2ZR. doi:10.1117/12.790494. 
  9. ^ Lucas, P. W.; Hough, J. H.; Bailey, J. A.; Tamura, M.; Hirst, E.; Harrison, D. (2007). "Planetpol polarimetry of the exoplanet systems 55 Cnc and tau Boo". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 393: 229. arXiv:0807.2568. Bibcode:2009MNRAS.393..229L. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.14182.x. 
  10. ^ physicsworld.com 2015-04-22 First visible light detected directly from an exoplanet
  11. ^ Martins, J. H. C.; Santos, N. C.; Figueira, P.; Faria, J. P.; Montalto, M.; Boisse, I.; Ehrenreich, D.; Lovis, C.; Mayor, M.; Melo, C.; Pepe, F.; Sousa, S. G.; Udry, S.; Cunha, D. (2015). "Evidence for a spectroscopic direct detection of reflected light from 51 Pegasi b". Astronomy & Astrophysics 576: A134. arXiv:1504.05962. Bibcode:2015A&A...576A.134M. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201425298. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: Sky map 22h 57m 28.0s, +20° 46′ 08″