A discovery of two young stars and four “teenage” exoplanets may provide scientists crucial information regarding the early years of our own Solar System. A team of international astronomers made the discovery by searching through data collected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
The two young stars, which have been named TOI 2076 and TOI 1807, are approximately 30 light-years away from each other and are more than 130 light-years away from Earth in the constellations of Boötes and Canes Venatici, respectively. TOI 2076 and TOI 1807 are called K-type stars (these are dwarf stars that are more orange than our sun) and are about 200 million years old. To put this into better perspective, they are less than 5% the age of our sun.
Interestingly, they are moving through space in the same direction (this is according to data collected by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite). Scientists don’t think that the stars orbit each other, but they do believe that they were born from the same cloud of gas. They also release stellar flares that are a lot more common and more energetic than those emitted from our sun. George Zhou, who is an astrophysicist at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, described these stars in further detail: “The stars produce perhaps 10 times more UV light than they will when they reach the Sun’s age.” “Since the Sun may have been equally as active at one time, these two systems could provide us with a window into the early conditions of the solar system.”
As for the planets, there are three mini-Neptunes orbiting TOI 2076 -- TOI 2076 b has an orbit of 10 days, while it takes TOI 2076 c and d more than 17 days to complete their orbits. TOI 1807 has one planet orbiting it (TOI 1807 b) – a world approximately twice the size of Earth and completes a full orbit in only 13 hours. In fact, it is the youngest planet found to date with such a short orbital period.
Christina Hedges, who is an astronomer at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Moffett Field and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, went into further details about these newfound worlds, “The planets in both systems are in a transitional, or teenage, phase of their life cycle,” adding, “They’re not newborns, but they’re also not settled down. Learning more about planets in this teen stage will ultimately help us understand older planets in other systems.”
The masses of these planets are currently being studied by scientists. Additionally, it’s unknown whether or not these worlds have any type of atmosphere. Further studies should answer these remaining questions and hopefully provide more information regarding the early stages of our Solar System. The study was published in The Astronomical Journal where it can be read in full.
A video of the discovery and an illustration can be seen here.