One of the youngest exoplanets ever discovered has been witnessed orbiting a nearby star and it is scorching hot. What’s even more amazing is that astronomers were able to take a photo of it.
The baby exoplanet, which has been named 2M0437b, is only a few million years old and is located 417 light-years away from us. It orbits its star at a very far distance of approximately 100 astronomical units (AU) away – one astronomical unit is the distance that Earth orbits our sun. To put this into better perspective, Pluto orbits the sun at a distance of about 40 AU.
When planets are that far away from their host star, they are normally too cold to give off any infrared radiation; however, this isn’t the case with 2M0437b because it is so young. Since it is just a few million years in age, it is still quite hot as a result of the planetary forming process. It has a temperature estimated to be approximately 1,400 to 1,500 Kelvin (between 2,060 and 2,240 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,127 to 1,227 degrees Celsius). Since it is still so hot, it glows slightly in infrared.
While the planet was initially discovered in 2018 by the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, experts have since been studying it in greater detail, specifically near-infrared observations at the W. M. Keck Observatory. The team of experts followed the star named 2M0437 in the sky and confirmed that the infant exoplanet was traveling with it.
Eric Gaidos, who is an astronomer at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, described the discovery by stating, “This serendipitous discovery adds to an elite list of planets that we can directly observe with our telescopes,” adding, “By analyzing the light from this planet we can say something about its composition, and perhaps where and how it formed in a long-vanished disk of gas and dust around its host star.”
More research needs to be conducted in order to gather more information about the planet such as its mass, chemical signatures in its atmosphere, and even its exact age. “Eventually, we might even be able to measure its orbital motion around the star,” noted Adam Kraus who is an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin.
Ideally, the Hubble Space Telescope would provide greater analysis of the planet as it has so far only been viewed by equipment here on Earth. The research was published in arXiv where it can be read in full.
The image of the planet orbiting its star can be seen here.