In June, researchers from the University of Rochester announced they had located a potential planet around another star so young that it defied theorists’ explanations. Now a new team of Rochester planet-formation specialists are backing up the original conclusions, saying they’ve confirmed that the hole formed in the star’s dusty disk could very well have been formed by a new planet. The findings have implications for gaining insight into how our own solar system came to be, as well as finding other possibly habitable planetary systems throughout our galaxy.
“The data suggests there’s a young planet out there, but until now none of our theories made sense with the data for a planet so young,” says Adam Frank, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester. “On the one hand, it’s frustrating; but on the other, it’s very cool because Mother Nature has just handed us the planet and we’ve got to figure out how it must have been created.”
Intriguingly, working from the original team’s data, Frank, Alice Quillen, Eric Blackman, and Peggy Varniere revealed that the planet was likely smaller than most extra-solar planets discovered thus far—about the size of Neptune. The data also suggested that this planet is about the same distance from its parent star as our own Neptune is from the Sun. Most extra-solar planets discovered to date are much larger and orbit extremely close to their parent star.
Jonathan Sherwood | EurekAlert!
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