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Giant exoplanet orbiting tiny star defies current theory of planet formation

30 Sep 2019, 15:11 UTC
Giant exoplanet orbiting tiny star defies current theory of planet formation
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An exoplanet with about half the mass of Jupiter has been spotted orbiting a red dwarf star, challenging astronomers’ current theories of planet formation. Picked up by the CARMENES red dwarf survey, the unusual system was studied by an international team, led by Juan Carlos Morales at the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona. Their analysis led them to conclude that when planet-forming disks are both cold and large relative to their host stars, they may be more likely to fragment due to gravitational instabilities.

Having identified over 4000 extrasolar planets (exoplanets) to date, astronomers are gaining a good understanding of the stellar environments in which different types of planet form. For example, we now know that that while red dwarf stars – typically less than 60% of the Sun’s mass – are the most abundant type of star in the Milky Way, they only host around 10% of known exoplanets. At the same time, planets with similar masses to Jupiter only orbit around 10-15% of Sun-like stars, and are rarer still around dwarf stars. This pattern is thought to arise because of the inability of smaller planet-forming disks to develop solid cores large enough to quickly accrete ...

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