Astronomers watch a failed star become a planet

(ORDO NEWS) — This week, astronomers announced they have obtained images of a super-Jupiter in the process of formation, far from the star it orbits.

This suggests that the planet most likely formed in a process that would normally lead to the formation of stars, rather than a process that would lead to the formation of gas giants such as Jupiter.

A team of researchers searched for planets around AB Aurigae. And it looks like researchers have found one of them, now called AB Aurigae b, about 100 astronomical units from AB Aurigae, more than twice the distance between the Sun and Pluto.

The researchers used simulations to determine the size of the planet AB Aurigae b. Models suggest that while it is likely still growing, its mass is already at least four times that of Jupiter, placing it in the super-Jupiter category.

Gas giants are thought to form near their host star by accretion of a large rocky core, which then begins to draw in gas.

This increases the mass of the growing planet and contributes to its further growth. This rapid growth stops because the gas that feeds the planet is eventually driven away by the radiation from the young star.

However, at such distances as here, this process is unlikely to work. While more gas should stay there longer, the density of the material is not high enough to create a large core.

The alternative is a process similar to that which creates a binary star system. Random fluctuations in the amount of material cause a concentration of matter that performs a similar function to a rocky core.

And since the place of formation is far from the star, there is a chance that the growth process will continue longer, leading to the formation of a super-Jupiter.

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