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New Planet/New Answers

Karen L. Teramura/UH ifA

You’re looking at the youngest picture yet of a planet being born. The formation of Lk Ca 15 b should give scientists the best chance yet to see how a certain kind of planet – “gas giants” [Jupiter is an example in our galaxy] – evolve into fully-formed bodies.

The new planet was discovered by researchers in Hawaii and Australia, and was reported at a NASA-sponsored conference in Maryland yesterday. Lk Ca 15 b belongs to a group of planets discovered outside our solar system. Called “exoplanets”, they are expected to give scientists their best chance to observe how planets may have formed in our system.

It’s very early in the observation process, but some experts believe that the cloud of dust and gas surrounding the protoplanet will eventually become part of the planet. At about two million years of existence, Lk Ca 15 b is the youngest potential gas giant planet yet discovered [by contrast, our sun, which has approximately the same mass of Lk Ca 15 b, is 4.6 billion years old!].

(csmonitor.com)

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