Baby planet spotted near far-away sun
- URL to an article in MSNBC
When I was a kid (and I remember the parades at the end of the Korean War)
we had to imagine what planets around other stars would look like. Now, we
can almost take a look
First few paragraphs
Astronomers say they have discovered the youngest planet to date circling a
sunlike star, a find that will be a boon to the field of planet-formation
The _extrasolar planet_
stellar+disk.+Credit+Johny+Setiawan/MPIA) is an estimated 8 million to 10
million years old, a mere toddler compared to Earth, which is 4.5 billion years
old. Until now, the researchers say, no planet younger than 100 million
years old has been detected circling a sunlike star.
"It means we're opening up a new field of trying to find planets around very
young stars," said Alan Boss, a planet-formation theorist at the Carnegie
Institution of Washington. "So it's the very first example, and we hope there
will be a lot more." Boss was not involved in the discovery.
_Story continues below ↓_
The newly found world is so infantile that it resides in the star's
"protoplanetary disk," a ring of gas and dust circling the star. It has been
cataloged as _TW Hydrae b_
"This demonstrates that planets can form within 10 million years, before the
disk has been dissipated by stellar winds and radiation," the researchers
write in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
Weighing in at nearly 10 Jupiter masses, the planet circles at a distance of
0.04 Astronomical Units from its host star, TW Hydrae, in the constellation
Hydra. One AU is the average distance between Earth and sun.
The gassy "hot Jupiter" takes 3.56 days to orbit its star. The host star is
located 180 light-years away from Earth.
Planets are thought to form within disks of dust and gas around newly born
stars. Catching a _planet_
(http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070611_mm_planet_floodgates.html) in its childhood can give astronomers lots of
information about how planets materialize.
"The discovery shows that what we always call as 'protoplanetary' disks are
indeed protoplanetary; they form planets," study researcher Johny Setiawan of
the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany told Space.com. "There are
many 'protoplanetary' disks detected around young stars, but no planets so
far have been detected within such young systems."
Around some young star systems, however, astronomers have found _signs of
by noting clear lanes of dust within the disks. In these cases, it's presumed
that young planets are forming and have scooped up the dust, but the planets
themselves have not been detected."
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