Astronomers have discovered thousands of outer planets Planets behind us Solar System, But few of them have been directly photographed because it is very difficult to see them with existing telescopes.
Graduate student from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy, Zhoujian Zhang beat the odds and discovered a directly imaged exoplanet, the closest to Earth ever, at a distance of only 35 light-years.
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The team’s research, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, led to the discovery of a gaseous, low-temperature giant planet orbiting a low-mass red dwarf star, about 6,000 times further away from Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
Let the new COCONUTS-2 Planetary System and New Planet COCONUTS-2bIt was also detected from COol Companions ON Ultrawide orbiTS survey data.
“With a massive planet in a very wide interval orbit and with a very cold central star, COCONUTS-2 represents a planetary system very different from our solar system,” Zhang explained in a statement.
The COCONUTS survey aims to find mates at wide distances around stars of all different types near a land.
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COCONUTS-2b is the second coldest exoplanet discovered so far, with a temperature of just 160 degrees Celsius, which is slightly cooler than most ovens need to make cookies. Images of the planet can be obtained directly thanks to the light emitted by the residual heat trapped by the formation of the planet.
However, the planet’s energy production is a million times weaker than that of the Sun, so the planet can only be detected using low-energy infrared light.
The planet was first discovered in 2011 by the Wide Field Infrared Exploration Satellite, but it is believed to be a freely floating object, not orbiting a star. Zhang and his collaborators found that it is, in fact, gravitationally bound to a low-mass star, COCONUTS-2A, which is about one-third the mass of the Sun and about 10 times smaller.
Because of its widely separated orbit and brilliant host star, COCONUTS-2b’s sky will look dramatically different to any observer out there than the sky on Earth. Day and night will look essentially the same, with the host star appearing as a bright red star in the dark sky.
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