Astronomers discovered three new gas giants in a space laboratory cluster from the constellation of Cancer. The planets appeared only recently, and experts believe they were drawn towards their stars by the group’s dense environment.
The new gas giants are almost the size of Jupiter, and similar to the planet they are also composed of hot gas. The difference is that Jupiter needs 12 years to complete its orbit, while the gas giants from Messier 67 need only ten days.
As the parent star does not offer conditions to gas giants’ formation, scientists believe that the planets have formed further away from their parent star and later, the hot Jupiters were forced to approach the stars.
Researchers are amazed to find gas giants in an open cluster, which is only ten light years large.
Statistically speaking, approximately 5% of the stars in the cluster contain gas giants. However, only 1% of the surrounding stars that do not belong to the group have gas giants.
Another significant fact is that the gas giants appeared relatively recent in the cluster. Messier 67 had been studied for decades, and the new planets were discovered only in the last few years.
Out of the three hot Jupiters, one revolves around the star YBP401 and the two others are near the YBP1194 and YBP1514.
Researchers think that the dense environment of the cluster made the giants approach the stars. Stars that are closer together seem to have more encounters with other planets and stars.
Astronomers used measures of the high-precision radial velocity to detect massive planets in the Messier 67 cluster. The observations were made with the help of the HARPS spectrograph from La Silla Observatory in Chile.
The final purpose of the study is to determine the factors that influence the formation of giant planets inside open clusters. Some of the involved elements are the stellar mass and their chemical composition.
Scientists have ruled out the possibility that the new gas giants might have been attracted by high metallicity or high stellar mass.
The Messier 67 cluster was discovered as early as 1779. In the last years, the group of stars was used as a laboratory for the study of star and planet creation. The cluster contains around 100 stars that are similar to our Sun and numerous red giants. The last count estimated a number of over 500 stars. Another mysterious presence in the cluster is the 30 blue stragglers for which scientists have not yet found any explanation.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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