About 300 light-years from Earth, there is a star called TYC 8998-760-1, according tomedia CNET. The star is a bit like the sun’s “twins”, but it was born about 4.5 billion years later. In May, a team of astronomers studying the sun-like star discovered that it was not alone — a gas giant planet “accompanied” by it in the universe. They routinely named it TYC 8998 -760 -1 b.
Now, just two months later, the same team has discovered another planet farther from the star, called TYC 8998-760-1 c. The discovery, published Wednesday in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, is significant for planetary hunters. This is the first direct image of multiple planets orbiting a sun-like star.
“Our team has now been able to capture the first images of two gas giant planets orbiting a young, sun-like star,” said Maddalena Reggiani, an astronomer at the University of Leuven in Belgium and co-author of the study.
What does this mean for the average astronomy enthusiast? First, imaging exoplanets directly can be tricky. Much of these distant worlds are detected indirectly. Astronomers don’t actually see a planet in visible light, but they can judge its existence by its effect on bright stars. TELESCOPES SUCH AS NASA’S TESS ARE BEING USED TO LOOK FOR CHANGES IN STAR BRIGHTNESS, INDICATING THAT ONE PLANET HAS PASSED THROUGH VIEW, WHILE OTHER PLANET HUNTERS ARE LOOKING FOR SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN THE SPEED OF THE STAR, CAUSED BY THE GRAVITATIONAL EFFECTS OF AN INVISIBLE WORLD. Both methods have helped astronomers find a large number of exoplanets.
However, there are rare cases where telescopes can see planets directly, as the planets around TYC 8998-760-1 are found. Astronomers have a hard time imaging planets directly because they don’t emit much light. In addition, the closer they are to the stars, the greater the number of blocks the stars will have on them in the sky. But with the very large telescope sitcoms in Chile’s Atacama Desert and the SPHERE instruments connected to it, planetary hunters can block light — and detect nearby planets. THIS IS HOW TYC 8998-760-1 C WAS DISCOVERED.
This isn’t the first time astronomers have observed multiple planets orbiting a star. Researchers using the W.M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, discovered three planets orbiting HR 8799 in 2008. But HR 8799 is a strange star that lacks heavy metals — it’s completely different from our sun.
However, TYC 8998-760-1 is much like our sun. It’s like a very young version of the sun, and the two planets are like Jupiter and Saturn. “This discovery is a snapshot of an environment very similar to our solar system, but it evolved much earlier,” Alexander Bohn, an astronomer at Leiden University in the Netherlands who led the study, said in a statement.
The planet, discovered in May, is about 14 times the mass of Jupiter, while TYC 8998-760-1 c is about six times the mass of Jupiter. But the two planets are much farther away from their host stars. b The distance of the planet is about 160 astronomical units (AUs), making it 160 times larger than the distance between The Earth and the Sun. C Planet is twice the distance. Pluto, a former planet at the edge of the solar system, is only 40 astronomical units (AUs).
The European Southern Observatory, which operates the Very Large Telescope, is building a new, large telescope. The new telescope, scheduled to go live sometime in 2025, will provide astronomers with a clearer view of TYC 8998-760-1. If there are other undiscovered planets in the system, the great telescope will help to spot them.
Then there’s NASA’s infinitely delayed James Webb telescope, which can detect the system at different wavelengths, and should help determine the atmospheric species of giant exoplanets.