Hunting for giant planet analogs in our own backyard

Date:

Share post:

There may be a large number of undetected bright, substellar objects similar to giant exoplanets in our own solar neighborhood, according to new work from a team led by Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné and including researchers from the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) at Université de Montréal. It is published by The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

Hunting for giant planet analogs in our own backyard
This is an artist’s conception of a free-floating planet-analog 
[Credit: NASA/JPL]

Similarly-aged stars moving through space together in a group — described by astronomers as an association — are of great interest to researchers, because they are considered a prime target to hunt for brown dwarfs and free-floating planet-like objects.

Recent studies of an association of stars called TW Hya have revealed some of the first known isolated giant planet-sized objects in the neighborhood of our own Sun, about 100 light years away. This group contains a few dozen 10-million-year-old stars, all moving together through space.

In order to determine whether or not there are more stand-alone planetary mass-sized objects like these in the TW Hya association, Gagné and his team undertook the calculation of an astronomical measurement called the initial mass function. This function can be used to determine the distribution of mass in the group and to predict the number of undiscovered objects that might exist inside of it.

“The initial mass function of TW Hya had never been published before,” Gagné said.

In the process of this analysis, the team was able to determine that there are probably many more objects between five and seven times the mass of Jupiter in the association that haven’t been discovered yet.

“The TW Hya association extends out to a distance of ~250 light years, but our instruments aren’t sensitive enough yet to detect giant planets-like members at this distance, hence many of them might remain to be discovered,” Gagné added.

Source: Carnegie Institution for Science [March 02, 2017]

ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

Hubble snapshot of “molten ring” galaxy prompts new research

Hubble Space Telescope's glamour shots of the universe are so revealing they nearly always have a discovery behind...

Colourful life-form catalogue will help discern if we are alone

While looking for life on planets beyond our own solar system, a group of international scientists has created...

Faint starlight in Hubble images reveals distribution of dark matter

Astronomers using data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have employed a revolutionary method to detect dark matter...

Study reveals that giant planets could reach “maturity” much earlier than previously thought

An international team of scientists, in which researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) participate together...

Hubble detects helium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have detected helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b. This...

Oxygen-deficient dwarf galaxy hints at makings of early universe

A recently discovered dwarf galaxy in the constellation Lynx may serve well as a proxy for better understanding...

Against the current with lava flows on Mars

An Italian astronomer in the 19th century first described them as 'canali' -- on Mars' equatorial region, a...

Comet or asteroid: What killed the dinosaurs and where did it come from?

It forever changed history when it crashed into Earth about 66 million years ago. The Chicxulub impactor, as...