An international research team led by the University of Hawaii at Manoa has discovered one of the smallest planets ever observed. The results are published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical SocietyHe estimated that the planet is “a few times larger” than Jupiter.
The new planet was found in a “stellar nursery” and formed several million years ago — around the same time the major Hawaiian islands emerged from the ocean. Researchers, called 2M0437b, first discovered the planet orbiting a distant infant star in 2018.
Because 2M0437b is so small, it’s still hot from the energy released during its formation — scientists said at Press release Its temperature is similar to “lava from Kīlauea volcano.”
The Keck Observatory in Maunakea was used to track the orbiting star 2M0437b to ensure that it was in fact a planet for that star and not a distant object. It took researchers three years to confirm since the star moved so slowly across the sky.
2M0437b and its parent star reside in the Taurus cloud, a well-known “nursery” of the planets, but because the planet has a much wider orbit than many other orbits in its solar system – it’s nearly 100 times farther from the sun than Earth. From its sun – it would have been difficult to observe without new adaptive optical technology.
The discovery of the planet is particularly exciting for astronomers because it is easy to see and it is so young, which means that scientists will be able to observe it for many years and learn more about how the planets, including Earth, have progressed.
“This serendipitous discovery adds to the elite list of planets that we can observe directly with our telescopes,” said lead author and UH Mānoa professor Eric Gaidos.
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