Mysterious hot Jupiters can form both quickly and slowly

(ORDO NEWS) — The existence of “hot Jupiters” is one of the longest-running mysteries of the exoplanet-hunting era, but now a European spacecraft has provided important new insights into the formation of these enigmatic gas giants.

So-called “hot Jupiters” are planets about the size of Jupiter that orbit very close to their parent star usually less than a tenth of the distance separating Earth and the Sun.

Hot Jupiters are unlike any planet in the solar system, so astronomers have a lot of questions about the process of their formation.

New data collected by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, which monitors more than one billion stars in the Milky Way, has made it possible to establish new patterns in the formation and evolution of hot Jupiters, as well as to more accurately determine their relative age.

The researchers used measurements of the objects’ coordinates and velocities taken by the Gaia satellite to determine the relative ages of the stars.

By analyzing this information, along with data on the orientation of hot Jupiters with respect to the rotation axes of their parent stars, the scientists found that hot Jupiters can form in accordance with two different scenarios – both quickly and slowly.

“Until we had this really precise method of measuring age, we always felt the lack of important information,” said study lead author Jacob Hamer, a doctoral student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, in a statement.

Hot Jupiters, whose orbits deviate from the equatorial planes of their parent stars, probably formed later than the planets of this class, which have orbits that lie in the equatorial planes of stars – just like in our solar system.

“The first [formation process] is fast and leads to the formation of systems with rotation of bodies in one plane, while the other [process] is much longer and leads to the formation of a system with differently directed axes of rotation of bodies,” Hamer said in this statement.

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