An alien planet found by astronomers with the help of an infrared camera mounted on the Magellan telescope in Chile has scientists puzzled as to what else is out there that has yet to be discovered. The recently found alien planet is 11 times the size of Jupiter and is farther away from its host planet than anyone would have ever assumed possible, reported CBS News on Dec. 6, 2013.
“Led by a University of Arizona graduate student, the team that first spotted the giant says its mass is one one-hundredth the mass of the sun. It is 650 times farther from its host star than the Earth is from our sun. The surface temperature is about 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit – several hundred degrees hotter than Earth’s core.”
The team, led by Vanessa Bailey, a fifth-year graduate student from the University of Arizona, discovered the alien planet just recently by using the Magellan Adaptive Optics (MagAO) system and a Clio2 thermal infrared camera mounted on the Magellan telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The researchers used data from the Hubble Space Telescope to confirm their discovery. The team’s detailed study is expected to appear in a future issue The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The massive newly found alien planet, dubbed HD 106906 b, orbits star HD 106906 and makes any other planet in the solar system look small. In comparison to Earth, the recently discovered alien planet HD 106906 b is not only much larger but also much younger as it was formed only 13 million years ago. Earth is 4.5 billion years old.
Neptune and Uranus, the farthest planets in our planetary system, are smaller and 20 times closer to its host star, the Sun, than HD 106906 b is.
The discovery of HD 106906 b is raising the question among scientists how such a huge and distantly orbiting planet could have been formed and gone undetected. If a planet of such a tremendous amount exists in the universe and has just been recently discovered, what else is out there that we just have not been able to discover so far?
Tiffany Meshkat, who is a graduate student at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands and a co-investigator in the study of the alien planet summarized it for many when she said that “every new directly detected planet pushes our understanding of how and where planets can form. Discoveries like HD 106906 b provide us with a deeper understanding of the diversity of other planetary systems.”