Astronomers have spotted a Jupiter-like planet that could hold the answer to how our solar system was formed.
The planet 51 Eridani b is roughly twice the size of Jupiter and young by planetary standards, at 20 million years old. At 800 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet’s surface is still glowing with heat from its creation and offers clues about how it was formed, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday.
Located about 96 light-years from Earth, 51 Eridani b is the first planet discovered with a new direct imaging instrument coined Gemini Planet Imager or GPI. The direct-imaging instrument is mounted to the 27-foot-long Gemini South Telescope in Chile.
The instrument uses a different process than NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope to find planets. While Kepler looks for shadows or obstructions of starlight that could signify a planet, GPI was designed to discover faint, young planets orbiting bright stars.
The planet’s methane-rich atmosphere makes 51 Eridani b more “Jupiter-like” than any other exoplanet scientists have discovered, co-author Travis Barman, a researcher at University of Arizona, said in a statement.
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Time For Truth: (USA Today) – Astronomers spot young, ‘Jupiter-like’ planet