TORONTO – NASA’s Hubble Telescope allows astronomers to observe the formation of a Jupiter-sized planet by feeding on matter surrounding a young star.
Although 4,000 exoplanets have been cataloged so far, only 15 have been directly imaged by telescopes, according to a Press release.
They are often so far away and small that they only appear as dots in the best images, but NASA’s use of their Hubble telescope opens up a new avenue for exoplanet research.
The results were published in the April 2021 edition of the Astronomical Journal.
“We just don’t know much about the growth of giant planets,” Brendan Bowler of the University of Texas at Austin said in the statement. “This planetary system gives us the first opportunity to see material fall on a planet. Our results open a new area for this research.”
The exoplanet, nicknamed PDS 70, revolves around the orange dwarf star PDS 70b, which is “already known to have two actively forming planets inside a huge disk of dust and gas circling the star.” , indicates the press release. The system is 370 light years from Earth in the constellation Centauri.
PDS 70b is estimated to be five million years old.
The Hubble Telescope’s sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays gives researchers a unique look at the radiation from extremely hot gases falling on the planet, allowing them to observe how quickly the planet is massing.
“This system is so exciting because we can witness the formation of a planet,” Yifan Zhou, also of the University of Texas at Austin, said in the statement. “It is the youngest authentic planet that Hubble has ever directly imagined.”
Hubble’s UV observations allowed the research team to directly measure the planet’s growth for the first time, and they estimate that the exoplanet has accumulated five times the mass of Jupiter over the past five million years. since the start of his training.
The exoplanet PDS 70b is surrounded by a disk made of gas and dust that siphons material from an even larger disk surrounding it – researchers believe magnetic field lines carry material from the disks to the surface planets.
“If this material follows the columns of the disk on the planet, it would cause local hot spots,” Zhou explained. “These hot spots could be at least 10 times hotter than the temperature of the planet.”
These hot patches glow in UV light.
In order to combat the glare of the orange dwarf star, which is 3,000 times brighter than the neighboring planet, Zhou carefully processed the images to eliminate the glare so that only the light of the planet was visible.
Researchers hope that Hubble’s observations can provide insight into how giant gas planets formed around the sun 4.6 billion years ago.