As of this writing, almost 5300 exoplanets spanning approximately 4000 planetary systems have been confirmed to exist in our universe. With each new exoplanet discovery, scientists continue to learn more about planetary formation and evolution that has already shaken our understanding of this process down to its very core. One such example is “Hot Jupiters”, which are Jupiter-sized exoplanets, or larger, that orbit closer to their parents stars than Mercury does to our own. This is in stark contrast to our own Solar System, which has rocky planets closer towards our Sun and the gas giant planets much farther out.Continue reading “The Planet That Shouldn’t Exist”
Astronomers are Watching a gas Giant Grow, Right in Front of Their Eyes
In the vastness of space, astronomers are likely to find instances of almost every astronomical phenomena if they look hard enough. Many planetary phenomena are starting to come into sharper focus as the astronomy community continues to focus on finding exoplanets. Now a team led by Yifan Zhou at UT Austin has directly imaged a gas giant still in formation.Continue reading “Astronomers are Watching a gas Giant Grow, Right in Front of Their Eyes”
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This Exoplanetary System Breaks all the Rules
It’s just like a normal solar system…except completely backwards.Continue reading “This Exoplanetary System Breaks all the Rules”
A Strange Planet has been Found that’s Smaller than Neptune But 50% More Massive
Astronomers have found another strange exoplanet in a distant solar system. This one’s an oddball because its size is intermediate between Earth and Neptune, yet it’s 50% more massive than Neptune.
Astronomers have found what they call “puff planets” in other Solar Systems. Those are planets that are a few times more massive than Earth, but with radii much larger than Neptune’s. But this planet is the opposite of that: it’s much more massive than Neptune, but it also has a much smaller radius. Super-dense, not super-puffy.
This oddball planet is calling into question our understanding of how planets form.Continue reading “A Strange Planet has been Found that’s Smaller than Neptune But 50% More Massive”
A Neptune-class exoplanet has been found with its atmosphere stripped away
What happens when a giant planet gets stripped of its atmosphere? It leaves behind a giant core, rich in iron and other metals. A team using NASA’s TESS mission recently found such a remnant core, orbiting a star just 730 light-years away.Continue reading “A Neptune-class exoplanet has been found with its atmosphere stripped away”
Huge Stars Can Destroy Nearby Planetary Disks
Westerlund 2 is a star cluster about 20,000 light years away. It’s young—only about one or two million years old—and its core contains some of the brightest and hottest stars we know of. Also some of the most massive ones.
There’s something unusual going on around the massive hot stars at the heart of Westerlund 2. There should be huge, churning clouds of gas and dust around those stars, and their neighbours, in the form of circumstellar disks.
But in Westerlund 2’s case, some of the stars have no disks.Continue reading “Huge Stars Can Destroy Nearby Planetary Disks”
This is an Actual Image of a Planet-Forming Disc in a Distant Star System
In 2017, astronomers used ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array) to look at the star AB Aurigae. It’s a type of young star called a Herbig Ae star, and it’s less then 10 million years old. At that time, they found a dusty protoplanetary disk there, with tell-tale gaps indicating spiral arms.
Now they’ve taken another look, and found a very young planet forming there.Continue reading “This is an Actual Image of a Planet-Forming Disc in a Distant Star System”