Simulated image of the HD 106906 stellar debris disk, showing a ring of rocky planet-forming material. Credit: Erika Nesvold/Carnegie Institution for Science
An enormous young planet approximately 300 light-years from Earth has given astrophysicists a rare glimpse into planetary evolution.
The planet, known as HD 106906b, was discovered in 2014 by a team of scientists from the U.S., the Netherlands and Italy. It is 11 times the mass of Jupiter and is extremely young by celestial standards — not more than 13 million years old, compared with our solar system’s 4.6 billion years.
“This is such a young star; we have a snapshot of a baby star that just formed its planetary system — a rare peek at the final stage of planet formation,” said Smadar Naoz, a UCLA assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and a co-author of the study.
Another of the planet’s unusual characteristics is its distance from its star. Astronomers believe that the vast majority of planets outside of our solar system exist inside a vast dusty disk of debris relatively close to the center of the solar system. But HD 106906b is far beyond its solar system’s disk — so far away that it takes ...