Star TYC 8998-760-1 (with its light blocked) and its two exoplanets (marked with arrows). The other bright spots are stars in the background
The Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has taken the first image of a system with two giant exoplanets around a young solar-type star located about 300 light years away and known as TYC 8998-760-1 . This finding may help astronomers understand how planets formed and evolved around “our own sun.”
Images of systems with multiple exoplanets – planets orbiting a star other than the sun – are extremely difficult to obtain and, until now, astronomers have never directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the sun.
“This discovery is a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our solar system, but at a much earlier stage in its evolution,” said Alexander Bohn, PhD student at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, who led new research published today in ‘The Astrophysical Journal Letters’.
But Bohn goes further and declares: “The possibility that future instruments will be able to detect even lower mass planets around this star, marks an important milestone in the understanding of multiplanetary systems, with possible implications for the history of our own solar system ”.
“Although astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a small fraction of these exoplanets have been directly imaged,” said co-author and associate professor at the University of Leiden, Matthew Kenworthy, adding that “the observations direct are important in the search for environments that can support life ”.
“Our team has been able to capture this first image of two fellow gas giants that are orbiting a young solar analog,” said Maddalena Reggiani, postdoctoral researcher at KU Leuven (Belgium) who also participated in the study.
Bohn’s team obtained images of this system during their search for young, giant planets around stars like the sun, but much younger. The star TYC 8998-760-1 is only 17 million years old and is located in the southern constellation of Musca (the fly). Bohn describes it as a “very young version of our own sun.”