Scientists spotted a Jupiter-like exoplanet about in the constellation Eridanus 96 light years away. They dubbed the planet 51 Eridani b and researchers believe that it is a lot younger than its doppleganger.
That’s why the research team hopes that the newly found exoplanet can help them better understand the origins of our solar system.
The discovery was made with help from Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) of the Gemini South Telescope in Chile. GPI usually maps the skies in search for young exoplanets orbiting bright stellar hosts.
According to the team, 51 Eridani b is the only Jupiter-like cosmic neighbor to be so similar with our solar system’s Jupiter when it comes to how much methane it can hold. Other exoplanets had only small traces of the gas, while Jupiter is relatively rich in methane.
GPI also pointed out that the newly discovered space object has water on its surface. This may be a clue to how exactly gas giants in our solar system formed.
Most of alien solar systems found so far are very different than our own. Their “Jupiters” are usually scorching hot because they orbit relatively close to their host star. But this happened because astronomers’ instruments are better at detecting bright planets and stars than faint ones.
James Larkin, co-author of the find, noted that previous technology couldn’t detect solar systems identical to our own i.e. with small rocky worlds at its center and gas giants in its outer reaches.
He added that GPI can now map the sky and find large planets that are fainter because they are more distant from their suns. Scientists hope that they may soon learn how common the structure of our solar system across the universe really is.
Astronomers had long believed that gas giants were created gradually. First their large core emerged then their atmosphere rich in various gases. They have dubbed the theory the “cold start.”
But better optical instruments showed that many young Jupiter-like neighbors were actually hot worlds, a lot hotter than scientists had fantasized. So, they had to come up with another theory. They now believe that those hot Jupiters were created really quickly after a “hot start.”
Now, scientists speculate that the cold start may result also in rocky planets, while the hot start can only generate gas giants. Yet, the newly found Jupiter-like is also a very hot Jupiter-like candidate with its methane-rich clouds heated to nearly 750 degrees F.
Image Source: i4U