A team of researchers has discovered a Jupiter-like planet within a young system that could provide a new understanding of how planets formed around our sun.
Insights into planet formation could come from this observation
(August 14, 2015) A team of researchers has discovered a Jupiter-like planet within a young system that could provide a new understanding of how planets formed around our sun.
The new planet, called 51 Eridani b, is the first exoplanet discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), a new instrument operated by an international collaboration headed by Bruce Macintosh, a professor of physics in the Kavli Institute at Stanford University. It is a million times fainter than its star and shows the strongest methane signature ever detected on an alien planet, which should yield additional clues as to how the planet formed.
“The exploration of very young planetary systems that will evolve to look like our own has just begun,” said Didier Saumon of Los Alamos National Laboratory, whose role was theoretical modeling and data analysis for the project.
“The Gemini Planet Imager is amazing new technology that has quickly discovered the first extrasolar analog of Jupiter, but much younger,” Saumon said.
The Gemini Planet Imager was designed specifically for discovering and analyzing faint, young planets orbiting bright stars. The GPI is located on the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope in Chile, although the coordinating science teams are spread globally.
After GPI was installed on the telescope in Chile, the team set out to look for planets orbiting young stars. They’ve looked at almost a hundred stars so far. “This is exactly the kind of planet we envisioned discovering when we designed GPI,” says James Graham, professor at UC Berkeley and Project Scientist for GPI.
The results are published in the current issue of Science.