Hubble Discovers a Strange Exoplanet That Resembles the Long-Sought "Planet Nine"
Hubble Discovers a Strange Exoplanet That Resembles the Long-Sought "Planet Nine"
Does Planet Nine exist? An alien world 300 light years away gives hope
16 December, 2020, 05:56
"The captured planets would then be found on distant and highly inclined orbits, as exhibited by HD106906 b in this exo-planetary system and the putative Planet Nine in the solar system". It takes 15,000 Earth years for the exoplanet to complete one orbit around the pair of stars.
The exoplanet HD106906 b was discovered in 2013 with the Magellan Telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert.
HD 106906 b orbits so far from the binary stars at the heart of its solar system that Hubble can image it directly (see above).
The exoplanet resides extremely far from its host pair of bright, young stars - more than 730 times the distance of Earth from the Sun, or almost 68 billion miles. The invisible structures are also known as "manifolds", and scientists believe that planets can produce their own manifolds.
The prevailing theory to explain how the exoplanet arrived at such a distant and strangely inclined orbit is that it formed much closer to its stars, about three times the distance that Earth is from the Sun.
Most of the over 4,300 confirmed exoplanets discovered to date share something in common - a relatively close orbit to their host star. It is outside the dusty disk of debris surrounding the star pair.
Kalas, who searches for planets and dust disks around young stars, co-led a team that used the Gemini Planet Imager on the Gemini South Telescope to obtain the first images of the star's debris disk.
In a study published in 2015, Kalas led a team that found circumstantial evidence for the runaway planet's behavior: the system's debris disk is strongly asymmetric, rather than being a circular "pizza pie" distribution of material.
That's a very long way; 25 times farther out than Neptune orbits the Sun! Shared "It would be weird if, say, Jupiter just happened to be 30 degrees more risky than an aircraft that orbits every other planet". It all comes down to how the HD 106906B ended up on such a bit of rabbit so far.
Another oddity about the exoplanet is how tilted it is in its orbit.
However, drag within the system's gas disk caused the planet's orbit to decay, forcing it to migrate inward toward its stellar hosts. Usually, they can spend eternities in a single stable orbit, and only after countless little nudges do they begin to drift off course.
Using precise distance and motion measurements from the European Space Agency's Gaia survey satellite, candidate passing stars were identified in 2019 by team members Robert De Rosa of the European Southern Observatory in Santiago, Chile, and Paul Kalas of the University of California. The planet resides outside its system's circumstellar debris disk, which is akin to our own Kuiper Belt of small, icy bodies beyond Neptune.
A similar scenario has been proposed for the formation of Planet Nine: that its interaction with our giant planets early in our solar system's history kicked it out of the inner solar system, after which passing stars in our local cluster stabilized its orbit. Where those planets are in their orbits, and when they coincidentally line up and when they don't, determine how quickly you can navigate to the outer reaches. This configuration, some astronomers say, suggests these objects were shepherded together by the gravitational pull of a huge, unseen planet. But it hasn't been spotted yet. In our own solar system, the suspected Planet Nine would also lie far outside of the Kuiper Belt on a similarly unusual orbit.
I want to stress, we are talking about a hypothetical ninth planet here - there is data that points to the possibility of a large planet in our outer solar system, but it's far from a sure thing.
"This prediction of the orbit of Planet Nine is similar to what we are seeing with HD 106906 b", De Rosa explained.
Astronomers believe the planet is 10 times the size of Earth and moving along an eccentric orbit. It's not unlikely that our solar system looked like this distant system 4.5 billion years ago.
"To highlight why this is weird, we can just look at our own Solar System and see that all of the planets lie roughly in the same plane", Nguyen said.
In the future, NASA'sJames Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in October 2021, could help answer questions about the distant exoplanet orbiting the twin stars.
"They can capture planets that formed around other stars, especially if they have a companion star with them", Loeb said. "It is likely that both observers and theorists alike will be studying HD 106906 for years to come, unraveling the many mysteries of this remarkable planetary system".
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