Large Outer Planets are Rare

by Fraser Cain on July 17, 2007

No planets around this star. Image credit: UAOne of the big surprises the Universe had in store for extrasolar planet hunters is the number of enormous planets close into their parent stars – the hot Jupiters. Another surprise seems to be how few large planets are found in the outer reaches of a solar system.

The discovery was announced by an international team of astronomers who concluded a three-year survey of 54 young, nearby stars. These should be among the best candidates to have large, Jupiter-sized planets further than 5 astronomical units from their parent stars (1 astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun).

They didn’t find a single planet.

Using the European Southern Observatory’s powerful telescopes, such as the 8.2-metre Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, the team had the ability to find outer super Jupiter planets at distances of more than 10 astronomical units from their stars. They had the imaging capability to spot them, but none turned up.

This new data helps astronomers constrain their calculations about where and how giant planets form in other solar systems. They can refine their models to better understand how our own giant planets might have formed.

Original Source: UA News Release

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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