NASA has discovered a giant protoplanet with a mass nine times that of Jupiter

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The US space agency (NASA) announced that Hubble Space Telescope and the Subaru telescope in Hawaii photographed a gas protoplanet, mass nine times that of Jupiter. It is the youngest protoplanet ever discovered.

This is a huge planetary “baby” still in the “womb”, near the young star AB Aurigae, which has 2.5 times the mass of the Sun, is 60 times brighter and is only two million years old, compared to about 4.6 billion years of our solar system. The exoplanet and its star are located in the constellation Eniochus, about 508 light-years from Earth.

More than 5,000 exoplanets have been confirmed to date and, according to NASA, AB Aur b is one of the largest found. Its size is such that it could be considered not a planet but a brown dwarf, an intermediate category between a normal star and a planet.

Planets in the process of formation, i.e. protoplanets, had so far only been observed around another star. Almost all known exoplanets move within a distance of their star proportional to the Sun-Neptune distance. But AB Aur b moves in orbit three times that of Poseidon and 93 times the distance from Earth to the Sun, according to Reuters.

The embryonic planet seems to be developing in a different way from what the current theory of gas giants like Jupiter suggests. The extraterrestrial planet, called AB Aur b, is formed gradually through an unstable, intense and violent process and not through a gradual accumulation of material, according to researchers who made the announcement in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The planet being created, located inside a huge “mother” protoplanetary disk of dust and gas, leads scientists to conclude that there is more than one way to create Jupiter-type planets. “Nature is intelligent and can produce planets in a number of different ways,” said lead researcher astrophysicist Thein Curry of NASA’s Ames Research Center and the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.

The predominant theory of gaseous planet formation is that of “bottom-up” through the gradual augmentation of the original small stony planetary core by the addition and bonding of more and more materials and gases to the matrix disk. the bottom “, during which the original large disk around the parent star cools and gravity leads to its splitting into one or more protoplanetary pieces – something that seems to have happened with AB Aur b.

“The new discovery is a strong indication that some gas giant planets could be formed through the mechanism of disk instability,” said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington.

Link to the scientific publication:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-022-01634-x

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