New research indicates that gas giants, like Jupiter and Saturn, form quickly after their stars do. In fact, they probably form within the first 10 million years of a star’s life, or else they never form at all.
Astronomers from the University of Arizona conducted a comprehensive search for gas around 15 different sun-like star systems, ranging in age from 3 million to 30 million years old.
All of the stars that they looked at contained less than 10% of Jupiter’s mass swirling around them. In other words, the gas giants had already formed, and sucked up all this material. Even for the youngest stars.
Astronomers think that this gas might be important to the formation of terrestrial planets, like our own Earth. It could help stabilize the orbits of rocky planets into circular orbits that could support life.
The research was performed using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which can peer through the dusty environments that these stars form within.