Advanced adaptive optics on the telescope array VLT found two enormous gas giants in a solar system similar to ours. The difference is the fact that the star there is just 17 million years old. Almost a baby.
Image Credit: ESO
We have already discovered a good number of exoplanets. Usually, we do not observe them directly but through some indirect form of observation such as the transition method or the measurement of radial speeds. But now, the telescope array Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Chilean desert Atacama got an amazing image of a young solar system.
Alexander Bohn from the Leiden University in the Netherlands and his colleagues managed to get an image of an almost baby stars which is being orbited by two large exoplanets. While we know of many exoplanets by this point, direct images of them are still extremely rare. And so far, we had no direct image of a star of the same type as the Sun. And its direct observations we really need to found out more about the conditions that can be found in different places in the Universe.
As Bohn says, the image is like a moment from the past of our own Solar system. The star in question – TYC 8998-760-1 is just 17 million years. The lifespan of stars similar to the Sun is usually around 10 – 15 billion years.
The image clearly shows two bright objects near the star TYC 8998-760-1. To get such clarity, the scientists took the image several times and combined them. In the end, they found out that the two objects are gas giants that orbit its star at a distance of 160 and 320 AU (1 AU is the distance between the Sun and the Earth). That is much further away than Jupiter or Saturn which are just 5 and 10 AU far away from the Sun. At the same time, the two gas giants in the system are much larger than Jupiter and Saturn. The one closer to the star has a mass of 14 Jupiters and the further one has a mass of 6 Jupiters.
We get to see these incredible images thanks to an incredible device. SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research). This is an advanced system of adaptive optics with a coronagraph that can be found on the Unit Telescope “Melipal” which is operating since June 2014. And even then, the only reason why SPHERE was capable of seeing these planets is that they are so young. Any older planets would be colder and thus less bright.
Further observations should tell us more information about this young planetary system. The scientists, for example, want to know whether the planets got created at the spots we currently observe them and whether they will change their positions in the system.
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