A new planet has been discovered, one that is approximately eleven times the size of our own gas giant, Jupiter. The massive planet has been named HD 106906 b. What’s so special about the newly discovered exo-planet? According to calculations, HD 106906 b has the most distant known orbit of any planet around a sun.
The massive size of the planet combined with its highly irregular distance from its parent star has raised a number of questions about how it and other massive gas giants are actually formed. The youngster is only thirteen million years old. The Earth is by comparison an old fart at four and a half billion years old. Vanessa Bailey, the lead researcher on the planet, stated that, “This system is especially fascinating because no model of either planet or star formation fully explains what we see.”
The fifth-year graduate student in the University of Arizona’s department of astronomy heads an excited team of researchers who have been trying to find out more about the planet. It was happened upon by attaching an infrared camera to the Magellan telescope in Chile. Images from the Hubble Telescope were used to confirm the planet’s existence.
Such planets typically form much, much closer to the star they orbit. It’s assumed that gas giants begin their lives with a similar composition to rocky, terrestrial planets such as Earth. As their own star is developing, they take in the gas and dust that it gives off. Gas giants typically have a “molten” center which seems to support this theory. A little.
It’s unknown how gas planets like HD 106906 b manage to form so far away from their sun, as the suggested process seems to be far too slow. Theories are abound, but given the young age of the planet, there is hope of finding answers. Astronomers say they can still detect the leftovers from the formation of the star and planet.