Astronomers from around the world led by a team from the University of Hawaii at Manoa have discovered one of the youngest planets ever found. The planet is called 2M0437b, and astronomers are using data gleaned from its study to learn more about the origins of the solar system and our planet. Researchers analyzed light from the planet to learn about its composition and glean details about how it formed in the accretion disk that surrounded its star in the distant past.
The planet is estimated to be a few times more massive than Jupiter and to have formed around its host star millions of years ago. As the distant planet was forming around its star, the main Hawaiian Islands were only beginning to emerge from our planet’s oceans. The planet is very young, so young that researchers believe it is still hot from the energy created and released during its formation. The team believes it would have a temperature similar to that of lava.
The planet was first seen in 2018 using the Subaru Telescope located on Maunakea. Since its initial discovery, it has, over the last several years, been studied using other telescopes at the site, including the Keck Observatory. 2M0437b and its parent star are in the Taurus Cloud, which is described as a stellar nursery. It’s at a vastly longer distance from its parent star than the Earth is from the Sun. Researchers believe it’s 100 times further from its star than the Earth-Sun distance.
The vast distance from its star makes the planet easier to study because it’s not obscured by light from the star as it might be if it were closer. As a result, future research is planned to learn more about the planet and how it formed. In addition, astronomers want to use space telescopes, including the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope, hopefully allowing them to identify gases in the planet’s atmosphere and determine if it has its own debris disk that could form a moon.