Two independent teams of astronomers have discovered a trio of planets that are still in the newborn phase orbiting around a 4-million-year-old infant star known as HD 163296. The newly discovered young planets are roughly the size of Jupiter.
Roughly 1,000 times younger than the sun, HD 163296 is located in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius, roughly 330 light-years from the solar system. All the three planets are located between 7 billion and 24 billion miles away from the star. It is typically very rare to spot new planets that are being formed.
Notably, these are the first planets to be found using the powerful the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile. The researchers used the power of 66 high-precision antennae to track the locations of each planet.
The traditional methods used to find exoplanets don’t work for planets that are still developing. So, instead of studying gaps in the protoplanetary disk of dust and gas circling the star, the researchers used a new planet-finding strategy to detect the protoplanets. They analyzed the distribution and motion of carbon monoxide (CO) gas throughout the disk. The researchers looked at unusual patterns of gas flowing in the disk to find the telltale signs of planets.
The research team led by Christophe Pinte of Australia’s Monash University identified the outermost planet in the HD 163296 system, while the other team, led by Richard Teague of the University of Michigan, used similar methods to spot the other two protoplanets.
The researchers said that the two new studies could open some more doors leading to some more discoveries.
“This entirely new approach could uncover some of the youngest planets in our galaxy, all thanks to the high-resolution images coming from ALMA,” Teague said in a statement.
The two studies about the findings have been published online in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.