Scientists have discovered a giant planet orbiting a massive pair of ultrafast stars, an environment previously thought to be too harsh for planet formation.
A research paper published Wednesday in the journal Science reports that the discovery of the planet, called B Centauri (AB) B or B Centauri B, refutes the prevailing belief among astronomers.
“So far, no planets have been observed around a star three times the mass of the Sun,” wrote the European Southern Observatory, which photographed the planet with a Very Large Telescope in the Chilean desert.
“It completely changes the view of massive stars as host planets,” said study leader Markus Jansson, professor of astronomy at Stockholm University.
The B-type binary star, located at the center of the solar system in the constellation Centaurus, is very massive and hot. It emits large amounts of ultraviolet and high-energy radiation, which “has a strong effect on the surrounding gas that is supposed to resist the formation of planets,” the European Southern Observatory said.
“B-type stars are generally considered to have very destructive and dangerous environments, so it was thought that it would be very difficult to form large planets around them,” Janson said in a press release.
“It’s a harsh environment, dominated by intense radiation, where everything is on a gigantic scale: the stars are bigger, the planet is bigger, the distances are bigger.”
Gayatri Viswanath, Ph.D. Student at Stockholm University
The discovery was described in July and officially published Wednesday in the journal Nature. “The results show that planets may be located in more massive galaxies than had been expected based on previous findings,” the researchers said.
The newly discovered Centauri (AB) b is an exoplanet, an exoplanet that is “ten times larger than Jupiter, making it one of the most massive planets ever found,” the observatory wrote.
Co-author of Gayatri Viswanath, Ph.D. As a student at Stockholm University, he said in a press release that it is “a strange world in an environment very different from what we experience here on Earth and in our solar system.”
“It’s a harsh environment, intense radiation, where everything is on a gigantic scale: the stars are bigger, the planet is bigger, the distances are bigger,” Viswanath said.
The observatory wrote that the planet’s orbit is “one of the widest yet discovered,” 100 times greater than the distance between Jupiter and the Sun. “This great distance from the central pair of stars could hold the key to the planet’s survival,” she said.
Although the image published this month is the first on the planet since it was identified, b Centauri (AB) b was imaged but not recognized in previous telescopes, the researchers said.
This discovery prompted him and his colleagues to move forward with a study called BEAST, which examines 85 similar stars, Janson said in an email.
“We will try to get more telescope time to conduct a comprehensive survey, as well as survey the telescope archives of all major stars observed in the past,” Janson wrote.
“I think that in this particular area there will be an increasing intensity of searching for massive stars, both to discover planets, but also to characterize them, to discover their components and try to discover more details about how they might form,” he wrote.
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