The small dot above the star 1RSX J160929.1-210524 is a likely ~8 Jupiter-mass companion.  Credit:  Gemini Observatory

First Picture of Likely Planet Around a Sun-Like Star

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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Astronomers have unveiled what is likely the first picture of a planet around a normal star similar to the Sun. Using the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, astronomers from the University of Toronto imaged the young star 1RXS J160929.1-210524, which lies about 500 light-years from Earth and a candidate companion of that star. They also obtained spectra to confirm the nature of the companion, which has a mass about eight times that of Jupiter, and lies roughly 330 times the Earth-Sun distance away from its star. For comparison, the most distant planet in our solar system, Neptune, orbits the Sun at only about 30 times the Earth-Sun distance. The parent star is similar in mass to the Sun, but is much younger. “This is the first time we have directly seen a planetary mass object in a likely orbit around a star like our Sun,” said David Lafrenière, lead author of a paper detailing the discovery. “If we confirm that this object is indeed gravitationally tied to the star, it will be a major step forward.”

Until now, the only planet-like bodies that have been directly imaged outside of the solar system are either free-floating in space (i.e. not found around a star), or orbit brown dwarfs, which are dim and make it easier to detect planetary-mass companions.

The existence of a planetary-mass companion so far from its parent star comes as a surprise, and poses a challenge to theoretical models of star and planet formation. “This discovery is yet another reminder of the truly remarkable diversity of worlds out there, and it’s a strong hint that nature may have more than one mechanism for producing planetary mass companions to normal stars,” said team member Ray Jayawardhana.

The team’s Gemini observations took advantage of adaptive optics technology to dramatically reduce distortions caused by turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere. The near-infrared images and spectra of the suspected planetary object indicate that it is too cool to be a star or even a more massive brown dwarf, and that it is young.

While it could be a chance alignment between the object and the young star, it will take up to two years to verify that the star and its likely planet are moving through space together. “Of course it would be premature to say that the object is definitely orbiting this star, but the evidence is extremely compelling. This will be a very intensely studied object for the next few years!” said Lafrenière.

Team member Marten van Kerkwijk described the group’s search method. “We targeted young stars so that any planetary mass object they hosted would not have had time to cool, and thus would still be relatively bright,” he said. “This is one reason we were able to see it at all.”

The Jupiter-sized body has an estimated temperature of about 1800 Kelvin (about 1500ºC), much hotter than our own Jupiter, which has a temperature of about 160 Kelvin (-110ºC), and its likely host is a young star of type K7 with an estimated mass of about 85% that of the Sun.

“This discovery certainly has us looking forward to what other surprises nature has in stock for us,” said Van Kerkwijk.

Read the team’s paper here.

Source: Gemini Observatory


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LLDIAZ
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LLDIAZ
September 15, 2008 11:49 AM

Did I miss something or are there any reasons this isn’t just a lucky shot.

John Mendenhall
Member
John Mendenhall
September 15, 2008 7:39 AM

Excellent work. The article doesn’t emphasize it, but it was very clever to look for young hot objects still radiating strongly in the infrared.

Nice going, folks!

vino
Member
vino
September 15, 2008 8:53 AM

Very impressive work indeed…
More questions follow this discovery…Looks like we have to be in the drawing board for a few more yrs to get a comprehensive idea about the formation of planetary systems…

Mick
Guest
September 15, 2008 9:31 AM

WOW !!

bugzzz
Member
bugzzz
September 15, 2008 9:41 AM

that’s pretty amazing. it’s hard to believe that that planet is 330 AU from its sun. from our POV it ‘looks’ much closer.

again, the vastness of a galaxy, and by extension the universe, is amazing and impossible to comprehend. but fun to try!

David R.
Member
David R.
September 15, 2008 9:51 AM

Indeed amazing, albeit yet to be fully confirmed.

It does raise interesting questions about the formation of such objects, particularly the fact that it’s so hot compared to its distance from the star.

Hans Bausewein
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Hans Bausewein
September 15, 2008 12:13 PM

Looks like we can expect another class of hot Jupiters: far from the host star and young.

Then we do not have one observation bias, but two!

justin
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justin
September 15, 2008 4:09 PM

hi, i dont know much about anything, but how can it be 330AU and so hot?

Helio George
Member
Helio George
September 15, 2008 5:00 PM

justin, the imaging was in the near infrared, so the 1800K (2,780 deg. F) is bright in IR. Of course, the K7 star (~ 3800K) is hotter and brighter. [This image is in false color, so don’t let that confuse you.]

Helio George
Member
Helio George
September 15, 2008 5:01 PM

Oh, I meant to add that this massive planet is hot because of its own heat and not due to the star’s radiation upon it, no doubt.

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
September 15, 2008 5:04 PM
justin Says: September 15th, 2008 at 4:09 pm “hi, i dont know much about anything, but how can it be 330AU and so hot?” >>>I think this passage from the article answers your question justin – “Team member Marten van Kerkwijk described the group’s search method. “We targeted young stars so that any planetary mass object they hosted would not have had time to cool, and thus would still be relatively bright,” he said. “This is one reason we were able to see it at all.” Basically, as it is a young stellar system, any planetary objects in the system will have only recently coalesced. This process adds a huge amount of energy to a growing planet, and… Read more »
Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
September 15, 2008 5:11 PM
# LLDIAZ Says: September 15th, 2008 at 11:49 am “Did I miss something or are there any reasons this isn’t just a lucky shot.” >>>This is from the arxiv paper: “Although our photometry and spectroscopy establish that the candidate companion has low gravity and a mass in the planetary regime, they do not prove that it is physically bound to the primary star rather than a free-floating planet in the association. A recent census of the Upper Scorpius association (Carpenter et al. 2006) reported 340 members with masses above 0.1 M⊙ over a 150 deg2 area of the sky. Assuming conservatively that there are as many free-floating planets in the association as there are stars > 0.1 M⊙,… Read more »
SPACERIDER
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SPACERIDER
September 16, 2008 4:57 AM

So cool!!!!
Cant wait for more to be discovered !!

Simon
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Simon
September 16, 2008 5:29 AM

Wow! First ever direct image of an exosolar planet around a sun like star! I can’t believe this isn’t all over the news on tv,

Alphonso
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Alphonso
September 16, 2008 8:10 AM

That’s a direct view of an extra-solar planet?

WOW!!

DavidR
Guest
DavidR
September 16, 2008 9:56 AM

Jupiter gives off more energy (as heat radiation) than it recieves from the sun…. so I’m not suprised that a planet with a mass of 8 jupiters is hot – regardless of its distance from its parent star.

Whether this is due to slow cooling, or from some internal power source I don’t know. (could the energy be coming from radioactive decay?)

davey
Member
davey
September 16, 2008 11:08 AM

Nice shot!
If that turns out to be a planet, I wonder how a large, distant object such as this affects the evolution of other planets in this system….

help or hurt?

j.h.wegener
Guest
j.h.wegener
September 17, 2008 2:36 AM

If:
we have an extremely bright light source (giant star or even supernovae), but somehow succeeds in blocking the light from the source itself.
Perhaps then astronomers would be able to detect much more of the “dark environment” of that source, even to a great distance, so we get a more accurate picture of what is betweeen stars – even small dark objects?

Vladimir Kartashov
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Vladimir Kartashov
September 17, 2008 8:35 PM

If this object are a planet, where are the phase?

GregG
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GregG
September 18, 2008 6:38 AM

Vladimir

We are seeing radiation from the planet – not reflected light – so no phases. If the planet were to be illuminated from the parent star – I suspect the phase would still be invisible given the technology we have at present

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