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Distant exoplanet “weighed” by space observatories

22 Aug 2018, 12:40 UTC
Distant exoplanet “weighed” by space observatories
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Beta Pictoris b orbits the young star Beta Pictoris. This exoplanet is the first to have its rotation rate measured. Image credit: ESO L. Calçada/N. Risinger
The mass of a very young exoplanet has been revealed for the first time using data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) star mapping spacecraft Gaia and its predecessor, the quarter-century retired Hipparcos satellite.
Astronomers Ignas Snellen and Anthony Brown from Leiden University, the Netherlands, deduced the mass of the planet Beta Pictoris b from the motion of its host star over a long period of time as captured by both Gaia and Hipparcos.
The planet is a gas giant similar to Jupiter but, according to the new estimate, is 9 to 13 times more massive. It orbits the star Beta Pictoris, the second brightest star in the constellation Pictor.
The planet was only discovered in 2008 in images captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope Chile. Both the planet and the star are only about 20 million years old – roughly 225 times younger than the Solar System. Its young age makes the system intriguing but also difficult to study using conventional methods.
“In the Beta Pictoris system, the planet has ...

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