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Home » Space News » Jupiter Look-Alike Provides Rare Glimpse Into The Evolution Of Planets

Jupiter Look-Alike Provides Rare Glimpse Into The Evolution Of Planets

Back in 2014, a team of scientists from the U.S., Netherlands, and Italy discovered a planet that looks similar to Jupiter. The planet, HD 106906b, is not more than 13 million years old. Compared to the calculated date of our solar system, roughly 4.6 billion years of age, this planet is actually quite young. Despite its age, HD 106906b is enormous at 11 times the mass of Jupiter.

HD 106906b is pretty far away at approximately 300 light-years from our own planet. The location of this planet is actually quite unusual. HD 106906b is located far from its star. In fact, it is currently 650 times as far from its star as we are from the Sun. This means that it would take about 1,500 years for HD 106906b to make a complete orbit around its star.

Astronomers have believed that a majority of the planets outside our solar system are located within a disc of debris at the center of the galaxy. Up to this point, no other planet has been discovered to exist so far beyond this disc of debris. This challenges the current theories of planetary formation.

NASA, JPL-Caltech
NASA, JPL-Caltech

The star seems to be in its final stages of formation, meaning scientists are provided with a rare glimpse of a planets development. To provide a better understanding of HD 106906b’s location in relation to its stage of development and the star it orbits, post doctorate Erika Nesvold has created a software that models the planet’s orbital path. This software, called the Superparticle-Method Algorithm for Collisions in Kuiper Belts (SMACK) will give researchers a way to observe the planets orbit without having to wait 1,500 years.

One theory to the planets location was that it may have formed within this debris disc and was then somehow thrusted beyond the disc to its current location. However the study, which is published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, indicates that this is not the case and that the planet most likely formed in around the location it was recently discovered in.

Credit: T. Pyle (SSC), JPL-Caltech, NASA
Credit: T. Pyle (SSC), JPL-Caltech, NASA

Should this be true, the concluding results provide a picture of the evolution of HD 106906b’s solar system. The orbit of HD 106906b is elliptical, meaning it gets closer to its star on one side of its orbit, than it does on the other side. This elliptical orbit gives a better understanding of the debris disc. Under normal circumstances, a gas cloud collapses due to its own gravity, forming disc. This rotation of gas, dust, ice, and debris acts as a nursery where a star and a planet(s) are born.

The elliptical orbit of HD 106906b means that the star is closer to one side of the disc than the other, causing the dust in this section to glow brighter due to the warmth of the star.

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About Bryce Getchell

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