A worldwide team of scientists led by the University of Hawai at Manoa teachers, students, and alumni discovered one of the youngest planets ever identified near a distant newborn star.
Thousands of planets have been discovered orbiting other stars, but this one stands out because it is recently created and can be directly viewed. The planet, known as 2M0437b, joins a small group of objects that are increasing our knowledge of how planets originate and evolve through time, shedding fresh insight on the origins of the Solar System and Earth. The detailed study was just published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
According to a professor at the UH Manoa Department of Earth Sciences, this accidental finding adds to an elite list of planets that we can directly view with our telescopes. We can learn about this planet’s composition and possibly where and how it originated in a long-gone ring of gas and dust surrounding its home star by examining its light.
The planet is estimated to be a few times more massive than Jupiter, and it originated with its star several million years ago, about the time the main Hawaiian Islands first rose above the water. The planet is so young that it is still hot from the energy generated during its formation, with temperatures comparable to lava spewing from Kilauea Volcano.
Teruyuki Hirano, a visiting researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), discovered 2M0437b in 2018 using the Subaru Telescope on Maunakea. It has been investigated thoroughly for several years using various telescopes on the Mauna.
Gaidos and his colleagues utilized Maunakea’s Keck Observatory to track the host star’s location as it traveled across the sky, establishing that planet 2M0437b was a companion to the star and not a more distant object. The measurements took three years since the star travels slowly across the sky.
The planet and its parent star are located in a stellar nursery known as the Taurus Cloud. 2M0437b has a far broader orbit than the planets in the Solar System; its present separation is around one hundred times the Earth-Sun distance, making it simpler to study. However, sophisticated adaptive optics are still required to correct for picture distortion produced by the Earth’s atmosphere.
Two of the world’s biggest telescopes, adaptive optics technology, and Maunakea’s bright skies were all required to achieve this finding, according to an IfA astronomer. We are all looking forward to additional such discoveries and more extensive study of such planets using future technology and telescopes.
More in-depth investigation on the newly found planet may not be too far away. Observations using space observatories such as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope might detect gases in its atmosphere and tell if the planet has a moon-forming disc, according to Gaidos.
The star that 2M0437b orbits are too faint to discern with the naked eye, however from Hawaii, the newborn planet and other infant stars in the Taurus Cloud appear practically directly overhead in the pre-dawn hours, north of the brilliant star Hokuula (Aldeberan) and east of the Makalii (Pleiades) star cluster.