Astronomers May Have Found The Youngest Known Planet In The Galaxy Orbiting A Juvenile Star

planet finding
Astronomers may have discovered the youngest planet ever found in our galaxy. The planet is thought to be orbiting AS 209, a young star in the Ophiuchus constellation estimated to be just about 1.6 million years young.

Research recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to study planet formation details findings of the first-ever detection of gas in a circumplanetary disk. What makes this even more exciting is that it could mean there is a very young exoplanet within the constellation it was found.

During a study of AS 209, a young star located nearly 395 light-years away from Earth, astronomers detected a "blob of emitted light" in the midst of an otherwise empty gap in the gas encompassing the star. That discovery led to the finding of a circumplanetary disk surrounding a potential Jupiter-mass planet. The team hopes that future observations by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can reveal more data about the young star and possibility of an exoplanet.

circumplanetary disk
Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. Bae (University of Florida)

Circumplanetary disks are an accumulation of dust, gas, and debris around young planets, according to Sci Tech Daily. They contain material that could form moons and other small objects, and control the growth of young planets. It is thought that by studying these disks, that more information can be garnered on the formation of our own Solar System.

"The best way to study planet formation is to observe planets while they're forming. We are living in a very exciting time when this happens thanks to powerful-telescopes, such as ALMA and JWST," remarked Jaehan Bae, a professor of astronomy at the University of Florida and the lead author of the paper.

star as209
Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), A. Sierra (U. Chile)

The first detection of a circumplanetary, moon-forming disk was made in 2019. ALMA scientist identified the disk while studying the young exoplanet PDS 70c, and confirmed the finding in 2021. The new detections of gas in a circumplanetary disk at AS 209 could unveil more details surrounding the development of the processes by which moons are formed, and planetary atmospheres.

The team of researchers are paying close attention to the system, because of the planet's distance from its star and the star's age. The suspected exoplanet resides more than 200 astronomical units, or roughly 18.59 billion miles from the host star. The vast distance challenges currently accepted theories of planet formation. However, if the age of the young star is correct, the exoplanet could be one of the youngest planets ever observed.

Top Image Credit: Julio Perez from Pexels