Astronomers may have found the galaxy's youngest planet

Over the past 30 years, astronomers have found more than 5,000 exoplanets , an eclectic menagerie of worlds far removed from our stellar...


Over the past 30 years, astronomers have found more than 5,000 exoplanets, an eclectic menagerie of worlds far removed from our stellar neighborhood. The latest may just be an infant.

In the review Letters from the Astrophysical Journalscientists tuesday announcement irrefutable proof of a world only 1.5 million years old, making it one of the youngest planets never discovered, possibly the youngest.

This world – 395 light years from Earth in the constellation of Ophiuchus – is so young that its building blocks of gas and dust are still coming together. This planet is a newborn cradled in the arms of its mother star.

“It’s like looking at our own past,” said Myriam Benistyastronomer at the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble in France and co-author of the study.

As the suspect planet is shrouded in the material that makes it, further telescopic observations will be needed to confirm its existence. Assuming it’s not rocky detritus masquerading as a planetscientists can use it to better understand how worlds are made.

The torrent of newly discovered exoplanets has complicated Where refuted long-standing theories on the formation of planets. But the location of this small planet – firmly in the disk of primordial matter around its star – supports the idea that most planets spend much of their time growing up in a similar nursery.

The discovery of the celestial glitch suggests that “all planetary systems have a common formation process,” said Anders Johansen, an astronomer from Lund University in Sweden who was not involved in the study. Despite the chaos of the cosmos, he said, “there’s actually a lot of order” when it comes to making planets.

The team of scientists used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a collection of 66 antennas acting in unison in Chile, to collect the testimonies of this too young world. Gas and dust orbit some stars in so-called circumstellar disks. This material, which clumps together to form planets within these disks, emits radio waves that ALMA can detect.

Last year, Dr. Benisty and colleagues used ALMA to make the first unambiguous detection of a gas and dust halo orbiting an exoplanet: a circumplanetary foundry still making the world it enveloped, and maybe a few moons too.

For the latest study, they pointed ALMA to AS 209, a star just a little heavier than the sun. Just 1.5 million years old, it only recently started burning hydrogen – the stellar equivalent of a toddler speaking its first words.

AS 209’s circumstellar disk was found to have several gaps. And in one of those gaps, ALMA detected the radio signature of a planetary storm, gas that was presumably shrouding a Jupiter-like world still under construction.

The planet’s precise age won’t be resolved anytime soon, but it’s likely to be very similar to its fledgling star. But his youth is not the only thing that interests astronomers. It is also disconcerting away from its star. Neptune, the farthest planet in our solar system, is about 2.8 billion kilometers from the sun. This exoplanet is nearly 30 billion kilometers from its own star.

This raises questions about our own corner of the country.

The size of the debris disk that forged Earth and the other planets is uncertain. “Maybe the disk was only slightly larger than Neptune’s orbit, and that’s why Neptune is the farthest planet,” Dr Johansen said. But perhaps our hub of planet-making matter was more like that of AS 209. If so, “we also can’t rule out that our own solar system has a planet beyond it.” of Neptune,” he said. hypothetical planet 9 that some astronomers suspect lingers in the distant darkness.

In the next few days, the James Webb Space Telescope determine the mass of the planetary newborn and study its atmospheric chemistry. And by painting a detailed portrait of one of the youngest worlds known to science, these observations will bring us all one step closer to answering the ultimate question, said Jaehan Baeastronomer at the University of Florida and author of the study: “Where do we come from?”

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