Planets in Sky

Planet 10 Times As Massive As Jupiter Discovered Orbiting Around Two Giant Stars

The boundlessness and mystery of space always opens up the possibilities of new discoveries at any moment – and the newest one is changing the way scientists are looking at planet-hosting stars.

A study in the journal Nature revealed a giant planet has been found orbiting a young binary star system, called b Centauri, about 325 light-years away from Earth. The newly found planet, named b Centauri (AB)b or b Centauri b, is about 10 times as massive as Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system.

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“Finding a planet around b Centauri was very exciting since it completely changes the picture about massive stars hosting planets,” the study’s lead author Markus Jansen, an astronomer at Stockholm University, said.

b Centauri b was discovered using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), along with the mounted Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument (SPHERE). According to the ESO, b Centauri has six times the mass of the Sun, which makes it the most massive system where a planet has been discovered. It also becomes the hottest planet-hosting system, and is three times as hot as the Sun.

The discovery is notable, as it disapproved a belief that B-type stars — which possess surface temperatures between 10,000 to 30,000k — couldn’t support a sizeable planet due to their nature. “B-type stars are generally considered as quite destructive and dangerous environments. It was believed that it should be exceedingly difficult to form large planets around them,” Jansen explained.

The observatory said that b Centauri b’s orbit is one of the widest that have ever been discovered – it has a distance 100 times greater than Jupiter from the sun. Taking into account the binary B-Star’s harshness, b Centauri b’s orbital distance could be necessary for it in order for it to avoid the intense emitted radiation.

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This isn’t the first time that b Centuari has been captured – Imaging of it was actually done nearly 20 years ago by another telescope, but it was not recognized as a planet at the time.

b Centuari b now becomes the latest exoplanet, or a planet outside of the Solar System, to be discovered. To date, 4,576 exoplanets have been located, while there have been 3,393 systems with confirmed planets found.

Speaking to ESO, study co-author and Stockholm University PhD student Gayathri Viswanath emphasized just how different the environment of b Centauri b is from what we know and experience on Earth and in our system.

“It’s a harsh environment, dominated by extreme radiation, where everything is on a gigantic scale: the stars are bigger, the planet is bigger, the distances are bigger.”

Jansen noted that it’s currently a mystery as to how b Centauri b formed, but said that finding out the answer will be an “intriguing task.” ESO explained that with upgrades to the VLT and the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) to start making observations within the decade, more about b Centauri b, such as its formations and features, will be studied.

Jasen said in an email to NBC News that the discovery has motivated him and his team to expand on a survey titled BEAST, which is currently examining 85 similar stars. Jasen also acknowledged his belief that the field will see an increased search intensity for high-mass stars in order to confirm planets and characterize them.


For The First Time Ever, Astronomers Were Able To Watch As A Distant Galaxy ‘Dies’ 

For the first time in history, astronomers were able to witness the previously unknown phenomenon of a galaxy’s life coming to an end. Galaxies die when the stars that live within them stop forming. 

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array of telescopes in Chile scientists were able to watch as a distant galaxy ejected half of the gas it uses to form stars. The galaxy is specifically known as ID 2299, and the light emitted from the stars within this galaxy took about nine billion years to reach Earth.

Based on this timing, astronomers determined that they’re currently witnessing cosmic events that occurred when the universe was only 4.5 billion years old; the universe is thought to be 14 billion years old for context. 

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The galaxy is thought to be losing around 10,000 suns-worth of gas per year. This is significant because that gas is what’s needed for the galaxy to produce new stars. So far astronomers believe ID2299 has lost about 46% of its cold gas, however, the galaxy is still able to quickly form stars at rates greater than what we experience in our own Milky Way galaxy. 

Since ID2299 is still able to successfully produce stars, it’s likely that it won’t die for another few tens of millions of years. Annagrazia Puglisi, lead study researcher and postdoctoral research associate from Durham University in the UK and the Saclay Nuclear Research Center in France, spoke to the press after publishing the study in the journal of Nature Astronomy

“This is the first time we have observed a typical massive star-forming galaxy in the distant Universe about to ‘die’ because of a massive cold gas ejection.” 

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According to Puglisi, it’s also possible that ID2299’s demise is the result of a collision with another galaxy. Astronomers observed a large stream of gas and stars that typically only forms when two galaxies come together in a collision, and normally these streams are too far and faint to be seen, however, the scientists ability to see this tail means that the galaxy was likely formed by some sort of collision. 

 If a collision is what is causing this galaxy’s demise, astronomers will need to reconsider existing theories regarding the life cycle of stars and their formation at the end of a galaxy’s “life.” Previous theories claimed that the winds created by star formations would combine with active black holes at the center of a galaxy, which would thus send out materials needed to form stars.

“Our study suggests that gas ejections can be produced by mergers and that winds and tidal tails can appear very similar. This might lead us to revise our understanding of how galaxies ‘die,’” said Emanuele Daddi, study coauthor and astronomer at the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre in France. 

Astronomers were actually working on a survey regarding cold gas in distant galaxies when they noticed the tidal tail of ID2299 and realized just what they were witnessing. Future observations of the galaxy will likely reveal more about the process of gas being ejected from galaxies and how it impacts star formation, but in the meantime, astronomers are celebrating the fact that they witnessed a cosmic event that they’ve only theorized about in the past.


Scientists Discover New Galaxy That ‘Only’ Took 500 Million Years To Form 

In general, galaxies take a very long time to form, and when I say that, I mean billions of years. Galaxies typically build up very slowly and take that time to acquire the bulk of what makes them so vast and large. However, recently scientists discovered a galaxy that seems to have appeared in our universe when it was only 1.8 billion years old. 

While 1.8 billion years seems like an unfathomable amount of time to understand, just know that the Milky Way galaxy, which our planet is currently in, took around 13.6 billion years to fully form to be habitual for life. This galaxy is thought to have formed stars at rates hundreds of times greater than the Milky Way. 

In less than 500 million years, this galaxy has managed to form over 200 billion stars. Scientists are viewing this as one of the universe’s “greatest speed runs,” in terms of creating new galaxies. Galaxies start as very small nuggets of stars that take hundreds of millions, and even billions, of years to merge with one another and begin to grow. 

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This process is called the “hierarchical model,” and is one of the main theories used in the science community to explain how galaxies grow over cosmic time. Astronomers based at the University of Arizona were using the facilities Large Binocular Telescope when they spotted the “oddball” that was previously not in other scans. 

The galaxy is currently called C1-23152, and is billions of light years away from Earth. Its light has been reportedly traveling for over 12 billion years, making it one of the youngest galaxies on the cosmic scene due to the fact that it appeared when our universe was only 1.8 billion years old. 

Scientists were able to determine that the galaxy grew from basically nothing throughout the course of 500 million years by measuring the age, metal content, and velocity of the stars that are in C1-23152.

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At its peak of formation the galaxy was forming stars by the hundreds every year, averaging a few stars every single day. This rate of creation is pretty astounding, and often unheard of in terms of galaxy formation. For some perspective, our Milky Way Galaxy currently produces only a handful of stars every year.

C1-23152 is now known as a massive superstar galaxy after years of being a little cosmic speck in the corner of the telescope. Scientists are still trying to determine how the galaxy was able to grow at such an exponential rate. The usual hierarchical method doesn’t really apply here due to the speed of the galaxy’s formation alone. 

Astronomers at the moment believe that C1-23152’s creation was actually the result of a massive cosmic accident. They believe that two giant gas clouds located in the early universe collided and triggered a round of rapid star formation that was able to persist through hundreds of millions of years to form an entire galaxy. 

Scientists will continue to monitor C1-23152 and any other galaxy that appears to have formed at a similar rate. The hope is gather a greater understanding in general over how galaxies are formed beyond just the hierarchical method that scientists have been using for decades now.


Scientists Explore Presence Of ‘Galactic Tunnels’ Linking One Side Of The Universe To The Other

Wormholes have been a firm favourite in the land of science fiction for decades, but now, scientists are exploring the real possibility that wormholes do in fact exist. Their attention is directed specifically toward the Milky Way galaxy, which could hold the secrets to discovering one such portal.

Anyone who is a fan of sci-fi will appreciate the fascination with wormholes. In the 2014 movie Interstellar, a team of explorers travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity’s survival. And for over 6 years in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, the Federation space station Deep Space Nine guarded the opening of a stable wormhole to the far side of the galaxy. All exciting stuff, but not steeped in reality. 

The first discussions surrounding real wormholes emerged as part of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity and in its simplest terms, provides a shortcut between two far away points in space. Einstein’s theory supports the presence of wormholes as it allows for spacetime to curve, providing opportunities for time and space to bend and thus, manipulate the distance between the two points. 

Wormholes have been at the heart of hypotheses by theoretical physicists since the 1930s, where they were initially called white holes. White holes are the exact opposite of black holes in that they emit energy but do not allow anything to enter. The name was eventually changed to ‘Einstein-Rosen bridges’, but as this wasn’t a particularly catchy name, they became better known as wormholes. 

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Sadly, proving such a theory has so far been beyond the means of scientists here on earth, and no such examples have been found in space. However, now researchers at New York’s University of Buffalo have indicated that the answer may lie within our own Milky Way. 

Fresh attention has centered on Sagittarius A*, a huge black hole that is over four million times bigger than the sun.  Given its immense size, scientists have theorized that they may be able to determine the presence of a wormhole by analyzing the gravitational effects on the stars surrounding it and comparing this to historical data to highlight any anomalies.

Cosmologist Dejan Stojkovic of the University at Buffalo was quoted in the Daily Express as saying “If you have two stars, one on each side of the wormhole, the star on our side should feel the gravitational influence of the star that’s on the other side. The gravitational flux will go through the wormhole. So if you map the expected orbit of a star around Sagittarius A*, you should see deviations from that orbit if there is a wormhole there with a star on the other side.”

Scientists plan to sift through over 25 years of data in order to identify any anomalies in the orbit of these stars which could indicate the presence of a wormhole. However even if evidence is found, it still won’t be out and out proof that wormholes exist. Mr. Stojkovic clearly points out that whilst it might prove a probable explanation, we still possess an extremely limited knowledge and understanding of space, its properties and its capabilities, meaning that there could well be some other explanation that we simply don’t know about.

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Wormhole concept 

And for all of those space fans who are getting their hopes up about travelling through these wormholes, it looks like there is further disappointment. Mr. Stojkovic explains that even if wormholes are proven to exist, and are traversable, they would need to be stable and kept open with negative energy. Unfortunately, that is not within our scientific capabilities just yet. 

Roman Konoplya, a RUDN physicist agrees with this and earlier this year was quoted as saying “For wormholes to be traversable and not to collapse because of gravitational effects, the repulsion force in the bottleneck of a wormhole should be extremely high. Some preliminary studies of foreign colleagues seemed to indicate the possibility of such stability. However, we confirmed that a wormhole according to Einstein’s theory with quantum corrections is critically unstable. Evidently, an unstable system cannot exist in nature as any reaction with the environment would cause it to disintegrate. Mathematically, it is expressed in unlimited growth of initially neglected minor system deviation from statistical balance. Unfortunately, these results mean that we still don’t have a theoretically consistent wormhole model without exotic assumptions.”

Further sad news comes from Daniel Jafferis, from Harvard University who earlier this year revealed that that real life wormholes were unlikely to gather the speeds seen in science fiction movies. He was quoted as saying “It takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly, so they are not very useful for space travel.”

So whilst the argument for wormholes continues to look promising, it may be a long while before we’ll be using them for human space travel!