A massive young planet on the borderline between gas giant and brown dwarf is telling us a bit more about planet formation in general, and circumstellar disk dynamics in particular. Known as HD 106906b, the world is 11 times the mass of Jupiter and no more than 13 million years old. Its position 650 AU from its star creates an orbit that takes 1500 years to complete.
The host HD 106906, about 300 light years from Earth, is an F5-class star in the constellation Crux, the southern constellation dominated by the asterism we call the Southern Cross.
What we find here is a debris disk that is non-circular, its shape evidently explained by the presence, well outside the disk, of HD 106906b, whose orbit is elliptical. Observations through the Gemini Planet Imager, the Hubble Space Telescope and ESO’s SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument) show that we are viewing the disk nearly edge-on. The inner region appears cleared of small dust grains.
Working with these observations, a team led by Erika Nesvold, a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science, used a software tool she created called Superparticle-Method Algorithm for Collisions in Kuiper belts and debris disks ...