They find a new giant planet that challenges what is known about planetary formation


Dec 9, 2021 03:07 GMT

The planet is located in the constellation Centaurus about 325 light years from Earth.

Astronomers have discovered a new planet in the solar system, which has a mass 10 times that of Jupiter and challenges what the scientific community knew until now about the formation of planets. The study on the finding has been published this Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The planet called b Centauri (AB) b, Or simply b Centauri b, is located about 325 light years away in the constellation Centaurus and orbits the binary star system b Centauri visible without a telescope. The mass of b Centauri is at least six times that of the Sun, making it the most massive system to host a planet. In addition, its main star is three times hotter than the Sun and due to the high temperatures, it emits enormous amounts of ultraviolet radiation and X-rays.

Until now scientists did not believe that the existence of planets was possible near such large and massive stars due to their impact on gas and the rapid evaporation of materials floating around, but the discovery of b Centauri b shows that yes it is possible despite such an aggressive environment.

“Type B stars are generally considered to be quite destructive and dangerous environments, so it was believed that the formation of large planets around them should be excessively difficult,” explained Markus Janson, an astronomer at Stockholm University and lead author of the study. .

The new planet is one of the largest ever found and moves through one of the widest known orbits, at a distance from the central stars that is 100 times greater than the distance between Jupiter and the Sun. It is estimated that precisely this remoteness from the stars that make up the binary system could be key to the planet’s survival.

Now the scientists will try to find out how b Centauri b could have been formed, although they think that it is unlikely that has been formed ‘in situ’ through the conventional process of core accretion, when the nucleus first forms and then around it interstellar gas and dust accumulates.

“It could have formed somewhere else and reached its current location through dynamic interactions, or it could have been formed through gravitational instability“, suppose the authors of the investigation.

The new planet was discovered with the use of the SPHERE instrument of the VLT telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, as well as through data from the archives on the b Centauri system that showed that b Centauri b, indeed, already was in the images for 20 years, although at that time they did not recognize it as a planet.

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