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Scientists discovered a massive new world and they have no idea how it formed

Published Dec 30th, 2021 10:17PM EST
Planets of the solar system
Image: Denis Rozhnovsky/Adobe

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The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope—yes, that’s actually the name—has discovered a brand-new world. The planet in question is located 325 light-years away from Earth, in the Centaurus constellation. The planet itself orbits b Centauri, a two-star system that you can often see with the naked eye. Scientists say that this star system is the hottest planet-hosting system that we know of. It is now known as b Centauri (AB)b, or b Centauri b. Additionally, scientists found that the new world orbits its star over 100 times the distance between Jupiter and the Sun.

A massive planet for a massive system

What makes this new discovery so intriguing, though, is that scientists are scratching their heads about it. Because of how hot the two-star system is, it doesn’t make sense for planets to have formed within it. As such, scientists are perplexed at how this new world formed.

Scientists say the heat from the two stars in the b Centauri system should work against the formation of new worlds or planets. Likewise, the sheer mass of the system should have a negative effect as well. The b Centauri system is home to two stars that are collectively six to 10 times heavier than our Sun. As such, that makes it the most massive system scientists have confirmed the presence of a planet in thus far.

The planet itself is nothing to scoff at, either. According to the study, b Centauri b is 10 times bigger than Jupiter. That makes it one of the largest new worlds that humanity has discovered throughout the decades that we’ve studied space. Its orbit is also larger than anything we’ve previously seen. Researchers say it orbits in a wide orbit 100 times greater than that of Jupiter around the sun. While the discovery is relatively new, the researchers found that the ESO’s 3.6-m telescope captured an image of the planet almost 20 years ago. However, scientists didn’t recognize it as a planet at the time.

Scientists don’t know how this new world formed

galaxyImage source: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Rosario Acknowledgement: L. Shatz

One of the most perplexing things about this new world is the fact that the large mass and heat from the two stars should be creating enough high-energy radiation that anything around it starts to evaporate faster. However, this planetary discovery goes against everything we currently know about planet formations.

The planet in b Centauri is an alien world in an environment that is completely different from what we experience here on Earth and in our Solar System,” co-author Gayathri Viswanath, a Ph.D. student at Stockholm University, explained in a press release by the ESO. “It’s a harsh environment, dominated by extreme radiation, where everything is on a gigantic scale: the stars are bigger, the planet is bigger, the distances are bigger.”

Researchers will need to dig into things a bit more to discover exactly how this new world formed.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.