Scientists this week said they may have discovered what could be the youngest planet ever detected in the galaxy, one less than two million years old and a potential gold mine for researchers looking to learn more about the origins of astronomical bodies in nearby space.
Astronomers at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory said in a release on Wednesday that the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array recently made “the first-ever detection of gas in a circumplanetary disk,” with the data indicating “the presence of a very young exoplanet.”
Circumplanetary disks “are an amassing of gas, dust, and debris around young planets,” the NRAO said. The conditions inside these disks can give rise to moons and “young, giant planets.”
While observing “a young star” just under 400 light-years away from Earth, scientists said they detected “a circumplanetary disk surrounding a potential Jupiter-mass planet.
That particular planet is located over 18 billion miles from its host star, which the release said “challeng[es] currently accepted theories of planet formation.”
“And if the host star’s estimated age of just 1.6 million years holds true, this exoplanet could be one of the youngest ever detected,” the astronomers said.
“Studying these disks in their earliest stages may help shed light on the formation of our own Solar System, including that of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, which scientists believe formed in a circumplanetary disk of Jupiter around 4.5 billion years ago,” they added.