ALMA telescope data reveals the general structure of AS 209, a star that could host the youngest exoplanet yet discovered. / ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), A. Sierra (U. Chile)
Astronomers said Tuesday that the world’s largest radio telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile, might’ve picked up a signal from the youngest exoplanet discovered to date.
It’s a nascent world thought to have a Jupiter-like mass and to orbit the adolescent star AS 209, a supposed 1.6-million-year-old ball of gas that floats roughly 395 light-years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus. Translating from Greek to “serpent-bearer,” this regal title was given to the cosmic dot-to-dot because of the constellation’s resemblance to a man grasping a snake.
However, as the discovery team notes in its study on the find published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, we aren’t yet 100% sure that this baby exoplanet really exists. And even if it does, we don’t quite know that it’s the youngest of its kind. There’s some margin for error on that front, so further investigation is required — an endeavor made difficult because the exoplanet candidate also appears shrouded in a halo of gas and dust.
Fascinatingly, that “circumplanetary disk” is the main reason scientists believe an exoplanet is sitting near AS 209. These rings are hypothesized to give rise to moons and help develop infant planets as they flourish into strong bodies — though in truth, the Chilean array of 66 high-altitude antennas might’ve merely detected random blobs of matter rather than a full-on orb inside the disk.
But you know what we now have to clear some of this up? Something that can delve into the distant, difficult-to-study universe and pierce through veils of thick gas and dust? Yep, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope infrared superhero strikes again.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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