Giant Planet is Found at an Extreme Distance From its Star

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Giant Planet is Found at an Extreme Distance From its Star

One of the best things about the sheer number of exoplanets astronomers are currently discovering is that some are just very different. These differences can sometimes undermine existing theories and lead scientists to consider new theories that may explain the new information. That is undoubtedly what will happen to take up a new massive planet found by a team led by Dutch scientists. This planet is unique in a very special way – it is approximately 110 times further from its star than Earth is from the sun.

The star and its associated planet are located in the southern constellation Musca, about 360 light years from Earth. Known as YSES 2b, the planet was found by the Young Suns Exoplanet Survey (YSES), which used data from the Very Large Telescope to look for young stars. The one that YSES 2b orbits is only 14 million years old, but resembles what our own sun would have looked like at that age.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thUz1fq-Lxw

Video of the findings.
Photo credit: Learning Academy YouTube Channel

However, there is no planet like YSES 2b around our current Sun, and its existence has some interesting implications for early solar system models. Three possible explanations have been put forward for how such a massive planet could form so far from the star.

First, it would just have grown out of the protoplanetary disk, which is the most common method of planet formation. However, early-stage models of these disks suggest that there might not be enough material available in the disk to form a planet six times the size of Jupiter and that far from the parent star.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HP-5ij5xTNU

UT video about finding exoplanets.

Another possible explanation is that there was some gravitational instability in the planetary disk, which caused material to accumulate in the distant location of the planet. For this to be the cause, there would have to be a lot of material in this space to cause the instability. Right now there doesn’t seem to be enough of it to do this.

The final explanation is that the planet formed much closer to the star and then migrated to its extreme distance for the past million years. Something similar is said to have happened with the gas giants in our own solar system, known as the grand tack hypothesis. However, scientists would expect another force to be causing this migration. Most of the time, this force is caused by a second planet, but scientists don’t see anyone who could have caused the gravitational disturbance to send the planet out far enough to land where it is now.

Further raw data from the telescope show the YSES 2b exoplanet.
Photo credit: ESO / SPHERE / VLT / Bohn et al

While all three processes have arguments against them, it is still possible that one or more actually created YSES 2b. What is more interesting, however, is that there was another process that created it that would be new to science. More studies are needed, including whether the planet is actually moving or possibly increasing in mass, which could shed more light on the finding. Until then, astronomers, including those taking the YSES survey, will continue to search for wonderfully bizarre exoplanets.

Learn more:
Astronomie.nl – giant planet at a great distance from sun-like star puzzles astronomers
Astronomy & Astrophysics – Discovery of a directly mapped planet for the young solar analog YSES 2
Daily Galaxy – Exoplanet Mystery – “The Gas Giant That Shouldn’t Exist”
Sci-news.com – Astronomers imagine a giant planet right around a young sun-like star
Bad Astronomy – Astronomers find an exoplanet where an exoplanet shouldn’t be

Mission statement:
Direct image of the planet YSES 2b (bottom right) and its start, which is blocked by a coronagraph in the center of the image.
Photo credit: ESO / SPHERE / VLT / Bohn et al

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