Nuclear fusion takes place in the core of a newly discovered alien planet

An international team of scientists has discovered a new exoplanet that was first obtained directly from the European Gaia spacecraft, and it looks like nuclear fusion is still going on in its core.

A team led by Professor Sasha Hinckley from the University of Exeter in England has discovered an exoplanet orbiting about 300 million miles (483 million kilometers) from the star HD 206893, which is about 130 light-years from Earth and about 30% farther than ours. Sun.

The star has a known debris disk around it and has been considered a good candidate for finding new extrasolar planets. The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission makes extremely accurate measurements of the location of stars as they move across the sky, and the astrometric data it provides also means that the presence of exoplanets can be ascertained by measuring the wobble of the stars.

Related: 10 Amazing Exoplanet Discoveries

Following the Gaia data, the team used the GRAVITY instrument at the Very Large Telescope in northern Chile’s Atacama Desert to directly confirm the presence of a newly discovered planet known as HD 206893 c.

What’s more, this observation also allowed the researchers to analyze the light spectrum of the planet’s atmosphere. The apparent increase in the brightness of the object suggests that nuclear fusion is taking place at the core of this giant planet using deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen carrying a neutron.

The newly discovered exoplanet is likely about 13 times as massive as Jupiter. This sheer size and evidence of fusion means it sits on the borderline between a planet and a brown dwarf, a curious cosmic object that forms like normal stars but doesn’t have the mass needed to sustain fusion. The discovery could give scientists new insight into the difference between massive planets and brown dwarfs, members of the research team said.

“The discovery of HD 206893 c is a really important moment for the study of exoplanets, as our discovery could be the first direct discovery of the ‘exoplanet Gaia,'” Hinckley said in a statement. (will open in a new tab).

The discovery shows that Gaia can point the way to potential exoplanets, which can then be directly detected in follow-up observations, either on the ground or with a space-based observatory such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The new study has been accepted by the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and is available through ArXiv. (will open in a new tab). In addition, Hinckley presented the discovery earlier this month at an American Astronomical Society conference in Seattle.

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