Discovery of a gas giant 10 times the size of Jupiter • The Register


Scientists have discovered a giant gas planet 10 times larger than Jupiter orbiting the binary system of b Centauri A and B.

The b Centauri star system, located about 325 light years from our solar system, hosts stars with a combined mass of between six and 10 times that of the Sun.

A team led by Markus Janson, professor of astronomy at Stockholm University, confirmed the existence of the distant gas giant, about 11 times the mass of Jupiter, using data from the Very Large Telescope at the European Observatory austral in Paranal, Chile.

The results – recorded in Nature this week – show that planets can reside in much larger star systems than previous research has suggested, improving our understanding of the process of planet formation. Previous research had suggested that it would be rare to find gas giants orbiting stars with more than 3 solar masses.

Janson and his colleagues made observations between March 2019 and April 2021 and found the celestial body orbiting its binary stars 560 times the distance between Earth and the Sun, 100 times wider than Jupiter’s current orbit. .

The results led the researchers to conclude that the planet they dubbed b Cen (AB) b likely formed rapidly near its current location from a dense clump of matter that accumulated in a disc that was in orbit around b Cen AB.

Kaitlin Kratter, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, said the study of exoplanets has come a long way since tiny rocky worlds were revealed to orbit massive neutron stars in 1992 – the first planet-like objects to be detected outside of our solar system.

Unlike the first exoplanets, which were discovered thanks to the oscillation of their host stars, b Cen (AB) b was found by direct observation. Kratter said separating the light of the planet from the background is equivalent to capturing a single Christmas light in a football stadium lit by 500 floodlights.

Janson’s study provides evidence to suggest how such massive binary star systems might form, which has so far been the subject of debate among astronomers.

The work shows that a binary system can host a massive disk of gas and dust with a long lifespan. “So this suggests that this massive binary formed the same way as stars of lower mass – by accreting gas from a disk,” Kratter said. ®


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