Newly Formed Exoplanets Could Help Unlock Mysteries Of Planetary Birth And Evolution

A research paper published in the journal Nature has unveiled about the discovery of two youngest exoplanets ever discovered. Both of them are born around different stars and are by just a few million years old.

The discovery has been publicized by two different research teams. The researchers expect that the findings could explain as to how gas giants like hot Jupiters are formed and also, the evolution of their planetary systems.

The younger of the two planets orbit around the star known as V830 Tau, which is around 430 light years away from earth. The researchers said that V830 Tau is just two million years old. Despite being so young, astronomers at the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea have noticed the star having a wobble every 4.9 days.

It is an indication that something very large is orbiting around the star. When further assessment was carried out, it was found to be a hot Jupiter, which are large, Jupiter-sized planets that are quite close to their star and has very high surface temperature.

Another team at the same time from a different telescope focusing on a different corner of the universe noticed another star K2-33, which was dimming at regular intervals suggesting that a planet was passing in front of it.

Upon assessment the researchers found the super Neptune K2-33b, which is six times the size of earth and between 500 and 1,000 times younger. This planet sits in the ‘Upper Scorpius’ region of the sky. For now, the researchers do not have idea about its mass, but it appears to be 5.8 times as wide as earth. Astronomers said that the planet is quite hot and completes an orbit in just five days.

Using NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers have discovered the planet that might be around 5 to 10 million years old. Probably, it is older than V830 Tau, but quite younger than its star K2-33.

Study’s co-author of the K2-33b study, Trevor David, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology was of the view, “These two papers are probably the first solid evidence that you can find planets close to their stars at such a young age”.

Majorly, they gather information about planet formation from older planets. As per NASA, that seems that efforts are being to understand how the planets formed by like trying to understand human development by studying only adults.

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab officials said that most of the more than 3,000 confirmed planets around other stars orbit planets that are more than one billion years old. Therefore, the young planets offer an excellent opportunity to see early stages of planet development.

When the researchers studied V830 Tau, they supported an explanation on as to where Jupiter-sized planets formed. The researchers backed the explanation that hot Jupiters formed farther out but then migrated in.

K2-33b would also provide an insight into the evolution of these planets and their systems, said study’s co-author Lynne Hillenbrand, Caltech astronomer. Hillenbrand said that their next step in the case of K2-33b should include studying its atmosphere with the help of NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The researchers also expect to find many more such baby planets.

According to a report in LA Times by Amina Khan, “Astronomers scanning the sky for distant worlds have discovered two of the youngest exoplanets ever found. The two worlds, born around separate stars, are each just a few million years old – mere infants compared to the planets in our roughly 4.6-billion-year-old solar system. The findings, described in two papers by different teams in the journal Nature, could offer some insight into the development of gas giants such as “hot Jupiters” and the evolution of their planetary systems.”

K2-33b will also provide some insight into the evolution of these planets and their systems, said Caltech astronomer Lynne Hillenbrand, one of the authors of the second paper. Previous research had found evidence that K2-33 still had a few remaining shreds of its protoplanetary disk – which means it’s being observed in the last stages of an important, early chapter in its developmental history.

A report published in the Washington Post said, “But two newfound exoplanets, reported Monday in the journal Nature, do just that. Not only are they some of the youngest, strangest planets astronomers have discovered; scientists say their discovery could help demystify the process of planet formation. The younger of the two new planets was found orbiting the star V830 Tau about 430 light years away from Earth. V830 Tau is just 2 million years old (a fraction of our own sun’s 4.6 billion years), meaning it had hardly any time at all to acquire a planet.”

From a different telescope on the same mountain, gazing at a different corner of the universe at the same time, a separate team noticed that the star K2-33 seemed to dim at regular intervals, indicating that a planet was passing in front of it. That’s how they found the “super Neptune” K2-33b, which is six times the size of Earth and between 500 and 1,000 times younger. It’s also very, very hot, being 20 times closer to its sun than Earth is to ours, and it completes an entire orbit in just five days.

“NASA’s planet-hunting spacecraft Kepler has spotted the youngest planet ever found outside our Solar System. Dubbed K2-33b, this exoplanet is about 5 to 10 million years old. That may seem pretty damn old for the likes of you and me, but in the timeline of the Universe, this world is a mere infant. The Universe is thought to be about 14 billion years old, while Earth has been around for the last 4.5 billion years. Finding an exoplanet this young is pretty rare, and astronomers hope it can teach us more about planetary formation,” according to a news report published by The Verge.

So astronomers have come up with two theories: either K2-33b migrated to its position over a course of just hundreds of thousands of years, or it formed right where it is now. If it’s the latter, that would open up new possibilities about how some massive planets form. “The question we are answering is: did those planets take a long time to get into those hot orbits, or could they have been there from a very early stage?” said David. “We are saying, at least in this one case, that they can indeed be there at a very early stage.”

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