A newly-discovered planet, Gj 504b, is still glowing from the heat of its formation, making it deep magenta in colour. It’s hard to stop staring at it.
The dark pink colour is not the only thing that makes G j504b special. It is also the lowest-mass planet to orbit a star like our sun that was detected using a technique called direct imaging — which means scientists could actually see what colour it is.
It was found by astronomers from the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS), which images planets from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
Most exoplanets are discovered using indirect techniques, like monitoring the light given off by their host star. Direct imaging is important for finding planets that are farther away from their host star. This method also provides a wealth of information about that planet, including luminosity, temperature, atmosphere, and orbit, according to SEEDS.
GJ 504b is four times as massive but similar in size to Jupiter. In contrast, GJ 504b orbits its star, GJ 504, at nearly nine times the distance that Jupiter orbits our sun.
The fact that the giant gas planet is located so far from its central star and still able to obtain enough mass, is shaking up the traditional theory of how planets form, called the standard core-accretion model. At this point, the model can’t explain how planets located beyond 30 astronomical units (30 times Earth’s average distance from the sun) develop. GJ 504 b sits 43.5 AU from its star.
“At this point scientists cannot definitely say what led to the formation of GJ 504 b,” according to SEEDS, since the “theory requires that Sun-like stars have very massive disks around them, and it is unlikely that they could obtain enough mass in such outer regions.”
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