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A baby Jupiter was just spotted orbiting a nearby star

Published Jun 23rd, 2020 10:12PM EDT
young jupiter

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  • Astronomers have spotted a huge gas planet orbiting close to a very young star.
  • The so-called ‘hot Jupiter’ is particularly young, making it great for scientists to study.
  • Some theorize that gas giant planets are born close to their star before migrating elsewhere in their systems.

Our solar system is packed with a variety of planets, and we know more about some of them than we do others. Earth, of course, we know the most about, followed by Mars. Some of the more mysterious planets include Jupiter, which is a massive orb of mostly gas that seems to collect moons like it’s a profession.

Much of our time spent studying Jupiter has been focused on its massive storms and towering clouds that stretch deep into the planet. We don’t know a lot about how it formed, but by spotting young Jupiter-like worlds elsewhere in space we can get a better idea. A newly-discovered exoplanet called HIP 67522 b fits the bill perfectly, and it’s giving astronomers a lot to think about.

A new research paper describing the discovery of the planet was published in the Astrophysical Journal, and it suggests that the so-called “young Jupiter” is indeed just a baby, at least in age. The star it orbits is roughly the same mass as our own Sun, but it’s estimated to be just 17 million years old. That makes the gas giant planet in its orbit even younger, likely around 15 million years old.

That’s a far cry from most gas giant exoplanets spotted by scientists. As NASA explains in a new blog post, the age of most hot Jupiter exoplanets on record is over a billion years old. Spotting such a fresh gas giant is incredibly rare, and it’s helping to teach astronomers more about how and even where the planets tend to form.

One theory regarding the existence of gas giants is that they migrate throughout their lives, pushing to new areas of a planetary system over time. This newly-discovered “baby” gas giant is orbiting incredibly close to its host star, completing an orbit in a mere seven days. It’s likely incredibly hot, and since its size is roughly on par with our own Jupiter, it’s the perfect target to observe if we wish to learn more about the history of Jupiter in our own system.

“We can learn a lot about our solar system and its history by studying the planets and other things orbiting the Sun,” Aaron Rizzuto, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “But we will never know how unique or how common our solar system is unless we’re out there looking for exoplanets. Exoplanet scientists are finding out how our solar system fits in the bigger picture of planet formation in the universe.”

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