Youngest planet in new solar system discovered

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London, Jan 5 (UNI) Astronomers have identified an infant planet, the youngest yet to be discovered and is in a solar system that is still being formed.

The planet is still being created by cosmic dust and gas and despite being a baby chronologically speaking, it is vast in comparison with Earth and has been classified as a giant planet.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany said that it has a mass 3,115 times that of our own planet and 9.8 times that of Jupiter, The Daily Mail reported.

Previously the youngest planet to have been identified was an estimated 100 million years old. Earth is calculated to be 4.5 billion years old.

The new planet orbits an infant star, called TW Hydrae (TW Hya), which is thought to have formed eight million to ten million years ago.

The new planet is 3.7 million miles from its parent star, compared to the 93 million miles between Earth and the Sun and takes a mere 356 days to complete an orbit around TW Hya.

The new planet, TW Hya b, had formed within the first ten million years of the star system's formation, before stellar winds and radiation could dissipate the clouds.

The process of formation of TW Hya is still continuing but it is thought to be nearly complete.

There is a gap of 5.6 million miles between the star and the inside edge of the disc of clouds surrounding it.

The planet lies between the disc and the star and it was the absence of gas or dust in the gap where it orbits that helped to alert astronomers.

Vast discs of dust and gas are thought to form stars and planets because tiny specks of matter bump into each other to create lumps that eventually become big enough to form cores.

In their discovery, published in the journal Nature, the researchers said, ''There is a consensus that planets form within discs of dust and gas around newly born stars. Details of their formation process, however, are a matter of debate.'' ''The timescale of formation remains unclear, so the detection of planets around young stars with protoplanetary discs is potentially of greath interest. Hitherto, no such planet has been found,'' they added.

An alternative theory is that gravitational anomalies within the disc of dust and gas cause giant planets to form.

The researchers said, ''The detection of TW Hya b opens up the possibility of directly connecting the disc evolution and planet formation processes. It is the ideal system to test numerical simulations of planet core formation, migration and accretion.'' UNI XC RJ HS1039

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