Jupiter-sized planets could be ripped from their home planetary systems by massive young stars in a daring “planetary heist”.
The findings could explain the existence of huge gas giant exoplanets – or “super-Jupiterian planets” – around massive, hot, young stars that have remained a mystery until now. Two recently discovered planets, Exoplanet Exoplanet Study (BEAST) B-stars, are similar to Jupiter, orbiting their massive stars at great distances, hundreds of times the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
“The BEAST planets are a new addition to a plethora of exoplanetary systems showing incredible diversity, from planetary systems around sun-like stars that are very different from our solar system, to planets orbiting evolved or dead stars,” Richard Parker, researcher. an astrophysicist at the University of Sheffield in the UK and co-author of the new study, the statement said.
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The formation of “BEASTies” is problematic because huge stars emit huge amounts of ultraviolet radiation. Scientists thought that this radiation should prevent the growing planets forming around them from reaching the size of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.
“While planets can form around massive stars, it’s hard to imagine gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn being able to form in such a hostile environment, where stellar radiation could vaporize the planets before they’re fully formed,” he added. Parker.
The new study claims that these massive BEASTies did not form at all in their current systems, but were instead torn from smaller stars in the stellar nursery, a region where the rate of star formation is particularly high. The pair of scientists behind the work came to this conclusion by simulating conditions in stellar nurseries, which showed that planets captured from these regions could enter orbits similar to those of the observed BEASTies.
The duo’s previous research has already shown that massive stars in stellar nurseries can trap the planets of other stars or free-floating planets that don’t orbit the star. But this research makes it clear that these captured worlds can become “BEASTS”.
“This is essentially a planetary heist,” Emma Duffern-Powell, an astronomer at the University of Sheffield, said in the same statement. “We know that massive stars have a greater impact on these nurseries than sun-like stars, and we have found that these massive stars can invade or steal planets, which we call ‘BEASTies’.”
Duffern-Powell explains that the team’s computer simulations show that the theft or capture of these Beasts occurs on average once in the first 10 million years of the star forming region’s evolution.
“Our results further support the idea that planets in more distant orbits, more than 100 times the Earth-Sun distance, may not orbit their parent star,” Parker concluded.
The team’s study is part of a broader astronomical program that aims to find out how unified mechanisms like the solar system are in the thousands of planetary systems found in our Milky Way galaxy.
The duo’s research was published Wednesday (September 7) in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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