Washington, Aug 8 (): Using infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, an international team of astronomers imaged the giant planet around the bright star GJ 504. Glowing in dark magenta, the newly discovered exoplanet is dubbed as GJ 504b. It weighs about four times the mass of Jupiter and is the lowest-mass planet ever detected around a star like the sun using direct imaging techniques, researchers said.
Astronomers have discovered the magenta planet at a distance of about fifty-seven light-years from Earth. It orbits a bright young star GJ 504 not so different than our sun. The surface temperature of the planet is 460 degrees Fahrenheit.
GJ 504 is slightly hotter than the sun and faintly visible to the naked eye in the constellation Virgo. The star system is relatively young (at roughly 160 million years old) when compared to the Earth’s system (which is 4.5 billion years old).
Though it is said as the smallest exoplanet caught on camera around a sun-like star, the gas planet around GJ 504 is still huge — about four times the size of Jupiter. It lies nearly 44 Earth-sun distances from its central star, far beyond the system’s habitable zone.
This pink planet is especially interesting to scientists as it is the least massive planet that has ever been discovered around a star like our sun using direct imaging techniques and as it flies in the face of traditional planet formation theories.
The features of the exoplanet challenge the core-accretion model of planet formation, they study’s researchers say. It is believed that planets form in the gas and debris disk that surrounds a young star. Colliding asteroids and comets form the core, or seed, and as that seed becomes more massive, it gains enough gravity to pull gas from the disk toward it, forming a planet. This is called the core-accretion model.
But the orbit of the pink planet appears to take it nearly nine times wider than orbit of Jupiter around our sun, and at that great distance, the core-accretion model no longer works.
Markus Jasnons of Princeton University and a member of the team that found the planet, said this pink planet is one among the hardest planets to explain in a traditional planet framework. Its discovery implies that they needed to seriously consider alternative theories, or perhaps reassess some of the basic assumptions in the core-accretion theory.