Today’s Solutions: December 03, 2023

We can take up astronomy now, buy a good telescope, and go out on the right night to look up at the sky and marvel at the gaseous planets of our own solar system. These are of course Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. However, we average enthusiasts would need some different equipment, and perhaps training, to spot the newest discovery of the birth of a new gas giant planet. 

For the first time, astronomers are looking into the early stages of the formation of the newly discovered Aurigae b.

A world-changing birth

Aurigae b’s solar system is about 505 lightyears from Earth, and its star is relatively young, about two million years old. The star and everything in its system are in its early stages. In this growing solar system, astronomers got a look at the formation of the new gas giant and learned that the original theory of how they’re formed might be wrong. 

The current theory of “core accretion” has planets forming from small objects collecting dust, gas, and other materials building on each other as they all orbit a star. 

Aurigae b is about 9 times more massive than Jupiter, which is 1,321 times bigger than Earth and has an orbit of 8.6 billion miles from its sun, twice the distance between our sun and Pluto, which is believed to be too far out for the core accretion to have occurred. 

An alternative theory called “disk instability” explains that Aurigae b could’ve been formed in a more “top-down” process, where the protoplanetary disk — an enormous field of gas and matter orbiting its forming star — is cooling and rapidly breaking up. Here, gravity takes over and accumulates gas and matter together into new planets, like Aurigae b. 

These findings come from an international team who used the Subaru Telescope’s extreme adaptive optics system, coupled with its infrared spectrograph, or CHARIS, and its visible camera, dubbed VAMPIRES, as well as the Hubble Space Telescope. The team was only able to accumulate solid evidence through the collaboration of different facilities, techniques, and team members. The findings were published by the University of Arizona and are generating a lot of talk in the field, as this evidence gives backing to what might be new facts in astronomy. 

Source Study: The University of Arizona News Astronomers glimpse giant planet in its infancy | University of Arizona News

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