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Astronomer Anthony Boccaletti discusses observation of birth of potential exoplanet with Wikinews

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July 07 2020
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In March, a study conducted by astronomer Anthony Boccaletti and other researchers reported potential signs of formation of an exoplanet around the star AB Aurigae. Exoplanets are those planets which are outside the Solar System.

In March, a study conducted by astronomer Anthony Boccaletti and other researchers reported potential signs of formation of an exoplanet around the star AB Aurigae. Exoplanets are those planets which are outside the Solar System.

The host star AB Aurigae is a young star, roughly five million years old, Boccaletti told Wikinews. In contrast, the Sun is approximately 4.6 billion years old. Located in the Auriga constellation, AB Aurigae is about 520 light years away from the Earth. The astronomers observed the protoplanetary disk around the star.
Antony Boccaletti is one of the researchers on this study.
Image: acagastya.

The astronomers used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes in Chile to study this system. Boccaletti told Wikinews the twists they saw in the protoplanetary disk of gas and dust could be the formation of either a humongous planet, bigger than Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System; or it could less likely be a star, or a brown dwarf.

The disturbance in the twist is located around 30 astronomical units — one astronomical unit is the distance between the Sun and the Earth — from the host star. That is almost the distance from the Sun to Neptune. However, the host star AB Aurigae is more massive than the Sun: about 2.4 times the mass of the Sun. AB Aurigae is classified as a Herbig Ae star, which are known for their brightness.

Boccaletti and his team started observing the system in 2019. Boccaletti said the researchers would like to follow up the study to confirm the observed twists are indeed the birth of an exoplanet. "[I]f we confirm that it's a planet in formation then it becomes very important to follow up", he said.

There exists multiple theories of exoplanet formation, however, the formation of an exoplanet has never been observed till date. Discovered in 2016, K2-33b is one of the youngest exoplanets known so far, and it is about 9.3 million years old.

Boccaletti, who works at the Observatoire de Paris, discussed his findings with Wikinews last month.


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