An incredible discovery in deep space could alter our understanding of solar systems evolve.
Astronomers have found a huge concentration of “hot Jupiters” inside a distant star cluster, a surprising finding that may shed light on the formation of our own solar system.
Scientists have been looking at the star cluster called Messier 67, which hosts 88 stars and is about the same age as our sun, mostly because it is believed to have been formed under similar conditions to our solar system, according to an ESO statement.
The research team was essentially using this star cluster as a laboratory of sorts to explore the properties of exoplanets as well as planet formation.
Scientists have found evidence of hot Jupiters around three of the 88 stars in the star cluster, which is a rate of 5 percent, whereas the rate of hot Jupiters at stars outside clusters is less than 1 percent.
It’s a fascinating finding that raises plenty of new questions, and opens up new avenues for research. Scientists think hot Jupiters form elsewhere and then migrate toward their host stars as they evolve, although what causes the migration is unclear.
The statement reads: “Astronomers think it highly unlikely that these exotic giants actually formed where we now find them, as conditions so close to the parent star would not initially have been suitable for the formation of Jupiter-like planets. Rather, it is thought that they formed further out, as Jupiter probably did, and then moved closer to the parent star. What were once distant, cold, giant planets are now a good deal hotter. The question then is: what caused them to migrate inwards towards the star? There are a number of possible answers to that question, but the authors conclude that this is most likely the result of close encounters with neighbouring stars, or even with the planets in neighbouring solar systems, and that the immediate environment around a solar system can have a significant impact on how it evolves.”