May 8, 2018

Astronomers stumble on what may be “toddler” exoplanet

Posted by in category: space

An international team of astronomers led by Leiden University has discovered what may be a “toddler” exoplanet. Orbiting a young binary star system called CS Cha about 538 light years from Earth in the constellation of Chameleon, the object may be less than two million years old and is still growing thanks to the dust disc that it inhabits.

Astronomical discoveries aren’t always eureka moments. Because telescopes are essentially gigantic cameras that spend their careers snapping pictures of the heavens, there’s always a huge library of images to be gone over years or even decades after they were taken.

Such is the case of the Leiden team who were studying CS Cha and its dust disc using the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument (SPHERE) on the European Very Large Telescope in Chile. At only about two or three million years old, the T Tauri-type binary star system is very young and consists of two very small stars less than 30.6 AU (4.6 billion km, 2.8 billion miles) apart. These stars orbit a common center of gravity, and are surrounded by a disc of dust and gas about 55 AU across.

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