Baby Giant Planet Found in Our Own Neighborhood

James Maynard
Feb 12 · 3 min read

A massive world that would dwarf Jupiter has been discovered in our galactic neighborhood, leading astronomers to question how such a massive world could form far from its parent star.

Just 330 light years from Earth, a massive baby planet named 2MASS 1155–7919 b has recently been born from a cloud of gas and dust. Researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) found this rare young gas giant, 10 times larger than Jupiter, orbiting far from its stellar companion— 600 times further from its parent star than the Earth is from the Sun.

The star around which this planet orbits is also extremely young, having formed just five million years ago, roughly one-thousandth the age of the Sun.

A red, ringed planet orbits a cool reddish star.
A red, ringed planet orbits a cool reddish star.
An artist’s concept of a massive gas giant orbiting a cool, dim star. In the 2MASS 1155–7919 systemm, the planet orbits far from its parent star. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)

“The dim, cool object we found is very young and only 10 times the mass of Jupiter, which means we are likely looking at an infant planet, perhaps still in the midst of formation. Though lots of other planets have been discovered through the Kepler mission and other missions like it, almost all of those are ‘old’ planets,” said Annie Dickson-Vandervelde, a doctoral student studying at RIT.

This newly-discovered world is just the fourth or fifth exoplanet found orbiting so far from its host star, researchers explain. This planet is the closest such world to the Earth known to astronomers.

Image for post
Image for post
A simulation of 2MASS 1155–7919 b, accompanied by a massive ring system. Image credit: The Cosmic Companion/Created in Universe Sandbox

Each of the other known similar worlds — HD 106906 b, 1RXS 1609 b, CT Cha b, and DENIS1538–1038 — are on the upper range of planets, and could even be considered brown dwarfs (cold, dim stars which barely produce energy).

The star around which this exoplanet orbits, 2MASS J1155–7919, is a small, dim, cool star.

Researchers found this unusual world using data from Gaia — a European program designed to study as many as one billion stars throughout and beyond the Milky Way.

This discovery could help astronomers and astrophysicists learn more about how gas giants — the largest class of exoplanets — form and change over time.

“Given that 2MASS 1155–7919 b is quite possibly the youngest massive planet within ~[330 light years]— i.e., closer to Earth than the aforementioned massive young planets, as well as nearby star-forming clouds — this object is richly deserving of followup spectroscopy and imaging aimed at confirming its spectral type, age, and luminosity, in order to better understand its nature and origin,” investigators wrote in Research Notes of the American Astronomical Society.

Until just 25 years ago, astronomers did not know of any planets beyond our solar system. Today, we know of well over 4,000 worlds around other stars, and hundreds of these solar systems are known to be home to multiple planets.

James Maynard is the founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat.

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The Cosmic Companion

Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time

James Maynard

Written by

Writing about space since I was 10, still not Carl Sagan. Weekly video show, podcast, comics, more: www.thecosmiccompanion.net

The Cosmic Companion

Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time

James Maynard

Written by

Writing about space since I was 10, still not Carl Sagan. Weekly video show, podcast, comics, more: www.thecosmiccompanion.net

The Cosmic Companion

Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time

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