Du Pont Science

Science and discoveries

Beta Pictoris image taken with the du Pont telescope. Credits: Bradford A. Smith and Richard J. Terrile.

In 1984, Dr. Bradford A. Smith of the University of Arizona and Dr. Richard J. Terrile of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), used the 100-inch du Pont telescope with a coronograph and a Charged-Coupled Device (CCD) camera to image a circumstellar disk for the first time.
The disk was found around the star Beta Pictoris, and it was chosen as an interesting object along with three other stars thanks to the high infrared radiation it showed in the IRAS (Infrared Astronomical Satellite) data. This infrared excess was interpreted as a hint of the existence of dust particles around these targets.

At the time of its discovery, evidence suggested that planets could have formed around Beta Pictoris, due to a possible gap in the disk. However, the astronomers were not able to detect them.

It wasn’t until 2008 that astronomers discovered the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b, thanks to direct imaging data taken in 2003, followed by the announcement of Beta Pictoris c in 2019, thanks to radial velocity data.