A new YouTube video is one of the most incredible things we’ve ever seen in a while.
Four light dots move in half-concentric circles around a black disc in the middle of the video. You are actually viewing a planetary system.
The four dots are exoplanets, and the dark disc obscures their star, which is 133.3 light-years from Earth. The partial circles represent their orbital movements, collected from 12 years of observations.
HR8799 is the star, and its exoplanets formed the first system that astronomers have ever seen directly. Astronomer Jason Wang of Northwestern University has been keeping a close eye on it. He’s turned his findings into a time-lapse video, not for any scientific reason, but because it’s awesome.
“There’s nothing to be gained scientifically from watching the orbiting systems in a timelapse video, but it helps others appreciate what we’re studying,” Wang said in the statement.
“It can be difficult to explain the nuances of science with words,” he added. “But showing science in action helps others understand its importance.”
“It’s usually difficult to see planets in orbit. For example, it isn’t apparent that Jupiter or Mars orbit our sun because we live in the same system and don’t have a top-down view. Astronomical events either happen too quickly or too slowly to capture in a movie,” Wang says.
“But this video shows planets moving on a human time scale. I hope it enables people to enjoy something wondrous.”