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Space Science

Giant Planet Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter Found 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the fat-planets dept.
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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Giant Planet Nine Times the Mass of Jupiter Found

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  • Great, they rebuilt the Death Star a second time and now we found it.
    • Wow, I thought for sure the first Star Wars post would be "That's no giant-planet-nine-times-the-mass-of-Jupiter..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stonefry (968479)

      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.

      • Ah, but the light that arrives here now from really far away depicts events that happened a long time ago.
    • by kalirion (728907)

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

  • Amazing (Score:3, Informative)

    by x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) on Friday June 11, 2010 @04:10PM (#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 (Score:4, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday June 11, 2010 @04:20PM (#32541130) Homepage

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

      Not that it happens.

    • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday June 11, 2010 @04:24PM (#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.

      • 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.

    • In Soviet Russia, star orbits planet!!!!

  • Mass isn't the story (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Bad Astronomer (563217) <thebadastronomerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday June 11, 2010 @04:12PM (#32541030) Homepage
    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].
    • by dk90406 (797452)
      I thought planets of those sizes were massive enough to become suns?
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday June 11, 2010 @04:31PM (#32541276) Homepage

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

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        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 b

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          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.
        • 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.

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            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.

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

          Like this [wikipedia.org]?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mhollis (727905)

      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!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      How's the show coming along?

  • I couldn't help but notice the astrophysicist's last name: Lagrange. Is she related to Joseph-Louis?
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Friday June 11, 2010 @04:27PM (#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: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anne_Nonymous (313852)

      >> 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?".

  • When do we invade?
  • It's a shame the earth is so puny and small - the aliens will never find us!

    • by nschubach (922175)

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

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        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 th

        • 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.)

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

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

    • 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.
      • by nschubach (922175)

        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? ;)

        • by JWSmythe (446288)

              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.

      • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 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.

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