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Giant Planet Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter Found

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the fat-planets dept.

Space 73

cremeglace writes "In the late 1990s, astronomers noticed a distinct warp in the disk of dust and gas orbiting a young star some 60 light-years from Earth. Now, using new analytical tools, researchers have discovered a giant planet lurking within the dusty haze. About nine times as massive as Jupiter and composed mainly of gas, the planet is only a few million years old, proving that such enormous planetary bodies can form rapidly." What's amazing about this is that the images taken of the star clearly show the planet first on one side of the star, and then the other, several years later.

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73 comments

It's a trap! (1)

PmanAce (1679902) | more than 4 years ago | (#32540958)

Great, they rebuilt the Death Star a second time and now we found it.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541128)

Wow, I thought for sure the first Star Wars post would be "That's no giant-planet-nine-times-the-mass-of-Jupiter..."

Re:It's a trap! (3, Informative)

stonefry (968479) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541864)

Great, they rebuilt the Death Star a second time and now we found it.

Come on, that was a long time ago. And really far away.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 4 years ago | (#32547946)

Ah, but the light that arrives here now from really far away depicts events that happened a long time ago.

Re:It's a trap! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32547246)

As the prophecy has once told....

We've finally found Nibiru.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32568564)

As the Death Star was the size of a small moon, this one would be a Death Galaxy....

Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32540986)

So that's about twice the size of Al Gore.

Re:Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32541100)

Or slightly smaller than Rush Limbaugh.

Re:Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32542528)

You guys are so mean to that planet.

Re:Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter? (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32549576)

You think that's mean? I'm from Pluto, you insensitive clod!

Amazing (2, Informative)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541004)

Ok, IANAA (*not an astronomer) but what's amazing about the planet on one side of the star and then the other several years later? Don't most planets orbit stars at varying rates ("years" to us earthlings)? I'm confused by the fact that it's amazing for a large planet to be orbiting its star.

Re:Amazing (3, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541130)

They were suggesting that it's amazing that our images clearly show it.

Not that it happens.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32541146)

Yes but they usually take decades to orbit and we haven't been capturing pictures of extrasolar planets for very long. So to get pictures of a planet at opposite sides of its orbit is quite unique.

Re:Amazing (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544202)

Ok, decades to orbit, at a distance of between 8 to 15 Astronomical Units, so in this case TFA says an orbital period between 17 and 35 years.

Also it was mentioned that it was only a few million years old, like they had tree rings or something. They just found it, they are still amazed they can see it, yet they already have its age determined?

How does that work? TFA sort of glossed over that.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544690)

By knowing the age of the star, they can estimate how long it's been since the accretion disk coalesced into planets.

Captcha was "millions." Damn creepy sentient slashdot! It's got me twice in one day.

Re:Amazing (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541174)

What's amazing isn't that the planet is orbiting it's parent star, it's the technology to take a picture of the planet and be able to see it moving over time. Most extrasolar planets aren't detected this way, they usually use either Doppler shift or reduction in brightness to detect the existence of a planet and extrapolate from there. There's only a handful of examples of optically sighted extrasolar planets, and this is the first I've heard of having two pictures of the same system, both with the planet visible.

Not only is that 'cool' but it allows us to start cataloging planets that orbit their stars on a plane perpendicular to the direction we are viewing them. Previously, a planet had to conveniently be orbiting such that we were looking into the system edge on. The real excitement will come when we can view terrestrial planets this way with enough resolution to perform spectrographic analysis on the atmosphere and search for, among other things, sings of life.

Re:Amazing (1)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541558)

Thanks for the good explanation. That makes a lot more sense to me. That is cool now that it's been explained.

...search for, among other things, sings of life.

I too am excited about finding sings of life. It's too bad this technology wasn't around back before Elvis left. We might have been able to see the sings.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32543526)

Yeah, a much better headline would have been "... Imaged" rather than "... Found", as quite a number of these have been found. (And more of them are these 'big Jupiters' rather than Earth-like planets.)

One small quibble with MT - edge-on is necessary for detection based on variable brightness, but more planets are detected by their star's wobble (from the pull of the planet) - which I believe can be done with perpendicularly oriented systems. IAAA, BNAPS (But Not A Planetary Scientist).

The real excitement will come when we can view terrestrial planets this way with enough resolution to perform spectrographic analysis on the atmosphere and search for, among other things, sings of life.

But yeah, absolutely, detecting sings would be great. (ok, two small quibbles)

Re:Amazing (1)

ImitationEnergy (993881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545984)

Well, a planet #1 that size/mass #2 taking only a few years to circle the star tells me #3 the star & planet are a Binary pair, the first Binary not two planets, not a planet and a Moon like here, and not two stars. But the credit as usual won't go to me it'll go the little fellow in the wheelchair. Perhaps in a few years I can parlay a collapsing windpipe, zilch thyroid, bipolar and dysfunctional immune system into qualifying for a wheelchair and I can rate.

Re:Amazing (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32549592)

In Soviet Russia, star orbits planet!!!!

Mass isn't the story (5, Informative)

The Bad Astronomer (563217) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541030)

FWIW, mass isn't the story here; we know of hundreds of planets in that mass range. I would say the story is that two images taken a few years apart show the planet's motion, and that Beta Pic, the parent star, was the first to have a disk seen around it back in the 1980s. This planet explains the warp and other features in the disk, too, that have been known for years! I wrote about this on my Bad Astronomy blog [discovermagazine.com] .

Re:Mass isn't the story (1)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541138)

I thought planets of those sizes were massive enough to become suns?

Re:Mass isn't the story (3, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541276)

You need about 75 Jupiter masses to get sustainable stellar fusion, ignoring questions of composition.

Re:Mass isn't the story (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32546168)

    As I understand it, it's not the mass that matters, it's the density.

    You could have an object the size of our solar system, with a very low density, but a mass that far exceeds our sun, which would just remain a non-burning object.

    If the density reaches a critical threshold, it could then start burning, and be a star. Well, if the density becomes too great, it could also become a black hole (i.e., extreme gravitational force, pulling everything including light back into it)

    I'm no astrophysicist though. I'm sure someone else can give a more educated interpretation of the facts.

Re:Mass isn't the story (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32548700)

Gravity makes things denser if you just add mass. If you want stuff to be less dense, you have to heat them up, probably by starting fusion in the core. Just adding more mass to Jupiter won't change the volume significantly, it just gets compressed .If you start fusing Helium instead of Hydrogen in the core, temperatures there rise dramatically, allowing the outer, non-fusing parts of the object to expand.

Re:Mass isn't the story (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32549628)

You could have an object the size of our solar system, with a very low density, but a mass that far exceeds our sun, which would just remain a non-burning object.

You mean like the solar system used to be? Mass causes gravity, and gravity causes density if you wait long enough.

Re:Mass isn't the story (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32551038)

    Well, maybe.

    Since it's rotating, the centrifugal force keeps it from falling down upon itself. Unless the mass of the solar system stops spinning, it will maintain (somewhat) its density.

    The same could be said for the galaxy. If it were to stop spinning, it would collapse upon itself. That wouldn't be a very good thing. :)

    I wouldn't be too worried about a hyperdense mass that used to be our galaxy any time soon though.

Re:Mass isn't the story (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 4 years ago | (#32550704)

    You could have an object the size of our solar system...

Like this [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Mass isn't the story (2, Funny)

mhollis (727905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541844)

Posted to my Facebook Page.

This is really cool -- and good info about what it takes to make an actual star in the comments that follow the parent. Sometimes Astronomy means observations over years and years.

Good job, Phil!

Re:Mass isn't the story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32545576)

No one gives a fuck about your Facebook page. Not even your mom.

Re:Mass isn't the story (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32543722)

How's the show coming along?

Not a star now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32541068)

I thought that the theory was that if Jupiter was just a little bit bigger, it would have turned into a star (brown dwarf?).
How does the discovery of a planet 9 times the mass of jupiter affect that theory? Is it smaller in diameter but denser?

Re:Not a star now? (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541152)

I remember reading that too. I think you're right about the density... Jupiter's diameter should be about as large as gas giants get... any more material falling in would simply compress the core more and make it denser. If Jupiter were about 10 times more massive, however, it'd ignite and turn into a small star... so this planet might still be just below that threshold. But maybe since it's so large and diffuse, it might be spinning much faster to counteract all that gravity...

Re:Not a star now? (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541260)

The cutoff seems to be somewhat higher, at around 13 times the mass of Jupiter [ciw.edu] .

Re:Not a star now? (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541608)

So to summarize:

If it shines it's a star.
Else if the mass is greater than the theoretical minimum for fusion (13 Jupiter masses), it is a brown dwarf.
Else if the mass orbits a star or stellar remnant it is a planet
Else it is a 'sub-brown dwarf'

Re:Not a star now? (2, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32543746)

the moon is a star?

Re:Not a star now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32545320)

the moon is a star?

The moon orbits a planet (ours). The orbit orbits a star.

Re:Not a star now? (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545476)

The moon doesn't shine (in this sense). The moon reflects. Take away the sun, and the moon is dark.

Re:Not a star now? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32546184)

    Reflected light doesn't count as "shining". :)

Re:Not a star now? (1)

gkwok (773963) | more than 4 years ago | (#32547676)

That's no moon. It's a space station.

Re:Not a star now? (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 4 years ago | (#32551876)

the moon is a star?

Yes, the moon is a star. That is why our landings have always been at night.

Mal-2

Re:Not a star now? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32551170)

Why make up “theoretical”-based definitions?
And why the pointless dichotomies?

If it does fusion (no matter the size), it’s at least a brown dwarf, but a better name (star-like) would make more sense.
The more it shines, the more of a star it is.
Else if it orbits something it’s a planet. (That’s what the word means, after all.)
If it doesn’t, it’s something that we don’t have a name for yet, but that we may also call a planet nowadays.
No that does not mean that tiny star can rotate around a huge planet, since by definition there is no such thing.

I see no point though, in arbitrary separations like “planet” “planetoid” “dwarf planet”, “asteroid”, etc.
I’d only say that we have another gradient between the biggest and roundest planet possible, and the most non-uniform rock flying around. And between that rock, and a single molecule of matter. Also maybe a definition relative to the observer, about it being something that you could stand and walk around on without flying away.

Re:Not a star now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32541872)

Ugh, I did not mean to mod this as a flamebait. Slip of hand. Sorry.

Just curious (1)

Ed Peepers (1051144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541080)

I couldn't help but notice the astrophysicist's last name: Lagrange. Is she related to Joseph-Louis?

Re:Just curious (1)

Guignol (159087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32547434)

I think she's related to ZZ Top

Labels and Definitions (4, Interesting)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541228)

The universe is a pretty big place, or so I have been told. Undoubtedly if you look long enough you will find entities that challenge your preconceived label or definition of what something "IS". In a universal sense, everything is in flux, so all we are really doing is classification of temporal slices that we can deal with in our limited capacity. At exactly what point does a X become a Y? Considering the time frame being measured is so long, and our perspective so short, it becomes a point of debate, depending on what you call one thing in terms of the other.

Re:Labels and Definitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32541714)

...but Pluto IS a planet!

Re:Labels and Definitions (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32542366)

..No. It is a double dwarf planet.

Re:Labels and Definitions (2, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32543264)

>> you will find entities that challenge your preconceived label or definition of what something "IS"

Yeah, I read the headline as Giant Panda Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter Found, and thought, "Well, who am I to judge?".

Re:Labels and Definitions (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544144)

Well, he was only 9 times the mass [jwsmythe.com] after he was done.

    Nom, nom, nom.

Re:Labels and Definitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32547354)

Damn, that was some good astronometrical shit, yeah? Was it Chronic Supernova? Or Northern Lights?

Dude, my hands are HUGE!

Prepare the Armada (1)

Conchobair (1648793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541254)

When do we invade?

Re:Prepare the Armada (3, Funny)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32542042)

As soon as we detect the presence of oil on the planet :D

Re:Prepare the Armada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32547568)

deep space horizon ...

Re:Prepare the Armada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32548836)

Or better yet, unobtainium.

I'm pretty sure those tall blue-skinned natives won't be a problem to deal with.

Re:Prepare the Armada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32545004)

When do we invade?

As soon as Dems figure out they can tax it.

Re:Prepare the Armada (1)

ezratrumpet (937206) | more than 4 years ago | (#32546574)

Sanctions first!

Obligatory Comment (0, Redundant)

mederbil (1756400) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541442)

That's about the mass of yo momma!!

I had an obligation to this comment - sorry. :(

Re:Obligatory Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32542190)

That's not the obligatory comment. You should have said "not nearly as big as Uranus".

That's no planet, it's... (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541640)

It's a shame the earth is so puny and small - the aliens will never find us!

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32541740)

Maybe that's why we aren't traded on intergalactic slave ships yet!

Re:That's no planet, it's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32542494)

Aww. I was hoping to be sold into slavery as a hairy boytoy to a hot lizardwoman from Epsilon 5, and now you tell me they haven't even noticed us yet?
  Another stupid dream, crushed by reality.

(Captcha: Horribly!)

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32546260)

    Are you so sure about that? Wouldn't it be more efficient to find a planet that will be moving close to your destination with a few viable life forms, let them propagate, and then collect them later? The Earth is like a nice petri dish. Drop a few specimens in, and in a while you have a full fledged colony.

    We'll find out in about 2 years, when we've come to our destination, and the planet is culled for the slaves that have been propagating across it.

    Imagine the size of the ship you'd need to move 7 billion slaves. Not only the storage space, but you'd have to carry supplies for the duration. When trading in numbers like that, it's economically viable to just wait and let them deliver themselves. It's not like they can go anywhere. The farthest they've ever managed to go is about 250,000 miles, just beyond their own moon. They have no way to get away, and don't even weapons to fight us. We left agents on the planet to try to keep them from killing each other, so we don't lose our investment.

    Err, I mean, no, there would be no such thing as intergalactic slave trading. Now go look at Lolcats or watch American Idol. Don't worry about what could be out there.

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32550958)

Are you so sure about that? Wouldn't it be more efficient to find a planet that will be moving close to your destination with a few viable life forms, let them propagate, and then collect them later? The Earth is like a nice petri dish. Drop a few specimens in, and in a while you have a full fledged colony.

What? We were made so aliens can use us as slaves? RAEL LIED TO ME!

(Actually, despite the random chatter I've heard from Raelians, I don't recall hearing something to specifically disprove this theory. Not that I really listened.)

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32552520)

    The only thing I've learned from the Raelians (and other cults), is that I should start one of my own.

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 4 years ago | (#32543862)

Considering how loudly we broadcast to the universe, we probably create a much bigger foot print in the RF than a planet our size should. So, they might find us eventually. Whether or not we want to be found is a different question, and I think the answer lies in the benevolence of our discoverers. But if there's intelligent life within only 60 l.y., then we've probably been heard or will be soon enough.

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545584)

Considering how loudly we broadcast to the universe, we probably create a much bigger foot print in the RF than a planet our size should.

Is there a galactic mandate on the amount of radiation a planet is allowed to emit? If so, where can I read that? ;)

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32546284)

    We've made the documents available to you for eons. It's not our fault that you simple creatures haven't been able to figure out how to get your lazy selves off of that rock you call home.

    They're available in the records department, in the planning office at Alpha Centauri, for almost a million years.

    Your failure to read the documents does not constitute an excuse to not follow the galactic laws.

Re:That's no planet, it's... (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#32550194)

Considering how loudly we broadcast to the universe, we probably create a much bigger foot print in the RF than a planet our size should.

That's true, but all the radio radiation coming from all the transmitters on Earth put together is still much weaker than the naturally occurring radio waves emitted by Jupiter.

I'm pretty confident our signals are lost in the noise.

Nuclear fusion (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32541936)

This mass of this gas giant still isn't enough to get anywhere near minimum star size. Gas giants need to be ~8 times as massive as this porker to even get into the brown dwarf range. Quite amazing when you think about it.

Re:Nuclear fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544366)

Porker? You talkin' porkers, Mr. Hooper?

When are we hearing news about life on this planet (1)

jitendraharlalka (1702444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544440)

People at NASA must have already started looking for water, life on this planet. Wait for a few days, someone out there must have already set a timeline for posting such news on Slashdot.

Why Pictoris b? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32554682)

Anybody know why they've stopped using numbers for planetary designation? IIRC, stellar companions were supposed to use letter designations (Alpha Centauri A, B, C). Planets were supposed to be designated by their parent star and orbit number, so Earth = Sol III. Moons were designated by parent planet and orbit number, so Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto become Jupiter I, II, III, IV.

So why is this planet called Pictoris b instead of Pictoris I? Are Jupiter-mass planets now considered brown dwarfs?

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