Astronomers using the SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have discovered a second planetary-mass companion orbiting TYC 8998-760-1, a 16.7-million-year-old solar-type star previously known to host one giant planet. The researchers have also managed to directly image this multi-planet system. TYC 8998-760-1 is a K3-type star located 309 light-years away in the small southern constellation of Musca.
Also known as 2MASS J13251211-6456207, the star is about the same mass as our Sun, but is only 16.7 million years old. The star was previously known to host a massive planet, TYC 8998-760-1b, with a radius of 3 times that of Jupiter and a mass of 14 Jovian masses. The newly-discovered planet, TYC 8998-760-1c, is at least 6 times more massive than Jupiter.
The two alien worlds orbit their parent star at distances of 160 and 320 AU. This places these planets much further away from their star than Jupiter or Saturn are from the Sun.
“This discovery is a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our Solar System, but at a much earlier stage of its evolution,” said Leiden University PhD student Alexander Bohn, lead author of the study.
“Even though astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a tiny fraction of these exoplanets have been directly imaged,” added Leiden University astronomer Matthew Kenworthy, co-author of the study.
“Direct observations are important in the search for environments that can support life.” TYC 8998-760-1 is the first directly imaged multi-planet system that is detected around a young analog of our Sun. “Our team has now been able to take the first image of two gas giant companions that are orbiting a young, solar analog,” said co-author Dr. Maddalena Reggiani, a postdoctoral researcher at KU Leuven.
Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured a striking photo of the open cluster NGC 2203. NGC 2203 is an intermediate-age open cluster located in the southern constellation of Mensa.
Also known as ESO 34-4 and LW 380, it was discovered by the English astronomer John Herschel on January 23, 1836. NGC 2203 is a distant outlyer of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that orbits our Milky Way Galaxy about 160,000 light-years away.
The cluster is approximately 31 light-years across, and contains stars that are roughly twice as massive as our Sun. “Aside from its dazzling good looks, NGC 2203 contains lots of astronomical treats that have helped astronomers puzzle together the lifetimes of stars,” Hubble astronomers said. “A main sequence star, like our Sun, is the term applied to a star during the longest period of its life, when it burns fuel steadily,” they explained.
“Our Sun’s fuel will run out in approximately 6 billion years, and it will then move on to the next stage of its life when it will turn into a red giant.” “Astronomers studying NGC 2203’s massive strars found that their rotation might be a factor as to why some of the stars stay longer than usual in this main-sequence phase of their life.” A radiation-absorbing fungus found at the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor has been shown to absorb harmful cosmic rays on the International Space Station, and could potentially be used to protect future Mars colonies.
Exposure to cosmic rays poses a major health risk to astronauts leaving Earth’s protective atmosphere. Shields can be made out of stainless steel and other materials, but they must be shipped from Earth, which is difficult and costly. Xavier Gomez and Graham Shunk came up with the idea of growing radiation shields on Mars out of living organisms.