Astronomers discover first planets around sun-like stars in a cluster

Shane McGlaun - Sep 17, 2012
Astronomers discover first planets around sun-like stars in a cluster

NASA funded astronomers have announced that they have discovered planets orbiting Sun-like stars in a crowded star cluster for the first time ever. According to the astronomers, the findings are important because it offers the best evidence so far that planets can form in dense stellar environments. It's worth noting that the astronomers say the planets are not habitable.

However, according to the astronomers the planets would have more stars in their skies than what we can see from Earth. The planets discovered are described as hot Jupiters. What that means is that the planets are massive gas giants with boiling hot environments thanks to a tight orbit around their parent stars.

Each of these massive gas giant planets circles a different Sun-like star in the Beehive Cluster, also known as the Praesepe. This cluster is a collection of roughly 1000 stars that scientists describe as appearing to swarm around a common center. The cluster is populated with a group of stars born roughly at the same time out of the same giant cloud of material.

That means the stars share a similar chemical composition and the stars remain loosely bound together by mutual gravitational attraction. The two planets discovered in the cluster are called Pr0201b and Pr0211b. These are the first planets discovered in the Beehive Cluster. The planets were discovered using the 1.5-meter Tillinghast telescope located at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory near Amado, Arizona.

[via JPL]

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