Friday December 3, 2021
Contrary to popular theories
Giant planets were ‘getting bigger’
Until now, scientists have assumed that it takes hundreds of millions of years for a giant planet to reach its final size. German researchers came to a different conclusion when examining two celestial bodies. That could change the idea of how our solar system formed.
Young giant planets appear to reach their final size in the first million years of their evolution. An international team of researchers discovered this by measuring the masses of two giant planets orbiting the young sun-like star “V1298 Tau,” the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam reports. The results should help “to gain a more solid idea of the early evolution of planetary systems like ours”.
The planetary system examined around the star “V1298 Tau” is relatively young at 20 million years old. The sun-like star is orbited by two giant planets that were discovered in 2019 using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope. So the mass of these young giant planets was still unknown. The researchers determined their mass using radial velocity measurements from telescopes in La Palma, southern Spain and Tenerife, including AIP’s Stella 2 telescope.
“For many years, theoretical models have indicated that giant planets begin to evolve as larger bodies and then cluster together over hundreds of millions or even billions of years,” explained Victor J. Sanchez-Béjar, co-author of the work. “We now know that they could be the size of planets in our solar system in a very short time.”
Investigating such young planetary systems provides researchers with information about what happened at the beginning of our solar system. It is not yet clear whether the evolution of V1298 Tau and its planets is similar to that of most planets or if it is an exception. “If this is the normal case, it means that the evolution of planets like Jupiter and Saturn was very different from what we think,” said co-author Nicholas Lodio. So the results help to gain a more solid idea of the early evolution of planetary systems like ours.