- A new exoplanet has been found orbiting a two-star system 325 light-years from Earth
- Scientists say this exoplanet should not exist because the system is so massive and so hot that its vicinity must act against planet formation.
- The plant orbits the star system at a distance of 100 Jupiter orbits the Sun
- Scientists believe great distance is the key to planet’s existence
A giant planet has been observed orbiting the hottest and most massive two-star system ever found and scientists are baffled because such a world should not exist.
The exoplanet is orbiting B Centauri, located 325 light-years from Earth, whose mass is at least six times that of Earth’s Sun.
Until now, no planet had been observed around a star more than three times as massive as our Sun.
The newly discovered planet, known as B Centauri b, has also been found to orbit the star system at 100 distances from Jupiter, which scientists say could be the key to its existence.
A giant planet (below) has been observed orbiting the hottest and most massive two-star system ever found (left) and scientists are baffled because such a world should not exist
Markus Jansson, an astronomer at Stockholm University in Sweden and lead author of the study, said Statement: ‘Finding a planet around B Centauri was very exciting, because this planet completely changes the picture about massive stars as hosts.’
Jensen and his colleagues observed b Cen b with the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research Instrument (SPHERE) mounted on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) in Chile on March 20, 2019, and again on April 10 . 2021.
A high-contrast imaging technique was used to detect the planet, allowing scientists to distinguish between faint light coming from the planet and very bright light emanating from the star system.
“Our results suggest that planets may inhabit much more massive stellar systems than would be expected from extrapolation of previous results,” the study said in a statement. Nature,
The unusually large exoplanet (b) orbiting B Centauri (left) has at least six times the mass of Earth’s Sun. Until now, no planet had been observed around a star more than three times as massive as our Sun.
‘The planet is unlikely to have formed in situ through a traditional core accretion mechanism, but may have formed elsewhere and reached its current location through dynamical interactions, or through gravitational instability. ‘
The main star within the B Centauri two-star system, also known as a B-type star, is three times hotter than Son and emits large amounts of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.
The mass and heat of a B-type star greatly affect the surrounding gas, which must act against planet formation.
Astronomers note that the hotter a star is, the more high-energy radiation it produces, causing the surrounding material to evaporate faster.
The new exoplanet was discovered on March 20, 2019, and again on April 10, 2021, using the Exoplanet Research Instrument (SPHERE) mounted on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (pictured) in Chile.
‘B-type stars are generally considered to have quite destructive and dangerous environments, so it was believed that it must be extremely difficult to form large planets around them,’ Jensen said.
But the new discovery suggests that planets may indeed form in such dire star systems.
Co-authored by Gayatri Vishwanath, Ph.D. The Stockholm University student said: ‘The planet in B Centauri is an alien world in an environment that is completely different from what we experience here on Earth and in our solar system.
‘It’s a harsh environment, dominated by extreme radiation, where everything is massive: the stars are big, the planets are big, the distances are big.’
Scientists study the atmosphere of distant exoplanets using giant space satellites like Hubble
The positions of distant stars and their orbiting planets are often unlike anything we see in our atmosphere.
To understand these new worlds, and what they are made of, scientists need to be able to figure out what their atmospheres consist of.
They often do this using a telescope similar to NASA’s Hubble Telescope.
These giant satellites scan the sky and lock down exoplanets that NASA thinks may be of interest.
Here, the sensors on board perform different types of analysis.
One of the most important and useful is called absorption spectroscopy.
This form of analysis measures the light that is emanating from a planet’s atmosphere.
Each gas absorbs slightly different wavelengths of light, and when this happens a black line appears over the full spectrum.
These lines correspond to a very specific molecule, indicating its presence on the planet.
They are often called the Fraunhofer lines after the German astronomer and physicist who first discovered them in 1814.
By combining all the different wavelengths of light, scientists can determine all the chemicals that make up a planet’s atmosphere.
The key is that what is missing provides clues to find out what is present.
It is extremely important that this be done by space telescopes, because then the Earth’s atmosphere would interfere.
Absorption from chemicals in our atmosphere will skew the sample, which is why it’s important to study light before it has a chance to reach Earth.
It is often used to look for helium, sodium, and even oxygen in exotic environments.
This diagram shows how light passing through a star and through the atmosphere of an exoplanet generates Fraunhofer lines indicating the presence of major compounds such as sodium or helium.