Exoplanet Found by Hubble Resembles Reputed “Planet Nine” in Our Solar System

Planet Nine

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Astronomers verify bound orbit for world far from its star, revealing that distant worlds exist.

Astronomers are still looking for a theoretical “Planet Nine” in the far-off reaches of our planetary system, however an exoplanet 336 light years from Earth is looking increasingly more like the Planet Nine of its galaxy.

Planet Nine, possibly 10 times the size of Earth and orbiting far beyond Neptune in an extremely eccentric orbit about the sun, was proposed in 2012 to describe perturbations in the orbits of dwarf worlds simply beyond Neptune’s orbit, so-called removed Kuiper Belt things. It has yet to be discovered, if it exists.

A likewise strange extrasolar world was found far from the star HD 106906 in 2013, the just such wide-separation world understood. While much heavier than the anticipated mass of Planet Nine — possibly 11 times the mass of Jupiter, or 3,500 times the mass of Earth — it, too, was being in a really unforeseen area, far above the dust airplane of the planetary system and slanted at an angle of about 21 degrees.

The huge concern, previously, has actually been whether the world, called HD 106906 b, remains in an orbit constantly bound to the binary star — which is a simple 15 million years of ages compared to the 4.5 billion-year age of our sun — or whether it’s on its escape of the planetary system, never ever to return.

In a paper released in December 2020 in The Astronomical Journal, astronomers lastly address that concern. By exactly tracking the world’s position over 14 years, they identified that it is most likely bound to the star in a 15,000-year, extremely eccentric orbit, making it a remote cousin of Planet Nine.

Exoplanet HD 106906 b

Artist’s impression of the exoplanet HD 106906 b situated a country mile far from the main binary star and the disk of dirty product that surrounds it. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)

If it remains in an extremely eccentric orbit around the binary, “This raises the question of how did these planets get out there to such large separations,” stated Meiji Nguyen, a current UC Berkeley graduate and very first author of the paper. “Were they scattered from the inner solar system? Or, did they form out there?”

According to senior author Paul Kalas, University of California, Berkeley, accessory teacher of astronomy, the similarity to the orbit of the proposed Planet Nine reveals that such far-off worlds can actually exist, which they might form within the very first 10s of countless years of a star’s life. And based upon the group’s other current discoveries about HD 106906, the world appears to prefer a situation where passing stars likewise contribute.

“Something happens very early that starts kicking planets and comets outward, and then you have passing stars that stabilize their orbits,” he stated. “We are slowly accumulating the evidence needed to understand the diversity of extrasolar planets and how that relates to the puzzling aspects of our own solar system.”

A young, dirty star with an odd world

HD 106906 is a binary star system situated in the instructions of the constellation Crux. Astronomers have actually studied it thoroughly for the past 15 years due to the fact that of its popular disk of dust, which might be birthing worlds. Our planetary system might have appeared like HD 106906 about 4.5 billion years back as the worlds formed in the swirling disk of particles left over from the development of the sun.

Exoplanet HD 106906 b Orbit

This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals one possible orbit (rushed ellipse) of the 11-Jupiter-mass exoplanet HD 106906 b. This remote world is extensively separated from its host stars, whose fantastic light is masked here to permit the world to be seen. The world lives outside its system’s circumstellar particles disk, which belongs to our own Kuiper Belt of little, icy bodies beyond Neptune. The disk itself is uneven and distorted, possibly due to the gravitational pull of the stubborn world. Other points of light in the image are background stars. Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Nguyen (University of California, Berkeley), R. De Rosa (European Southern Observatory), and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute)

Surprisingly, pictures of the star taken in 2013 by the Magellan Telescopes in Chile exposed a world radiant from its own internal heat and sitting at an uncommonly big range from the binary: 737 times further from the binary than Earth is from the sun (737 huge systems, or AU). That’s 25 times further from the star than Neptune is from the sun.

Kalas, who looks for worlds and dust disks around young stars, co-led a group that utilized the Gemini Planet Imager on the Gemini South Telescope to acquire the very first pictures of the star’s particles disk. In 2015, these observations supplied proof that led theorists to propose that the world formed near the binary star and was tossed out due to the fact that of gravitational interactions with the binary. The proof: The stars’ external dust disk and inner comet belt are uneven, recommending that something — the world — irritated the proportion.

“The idea is that every time the planet comes to its closest approach to the binary star, it stirs up the material in the disk,” stated staff member Robert De Rosa of the European Southern Observatory in Santiago, Chile, who is a previous UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow. “So, every time the planet comes through, it truncates the disk and pushes it up on one side. This scenario has been tested with simulations of this system with the planet on a similar orbit — this was before we knew what the orbit of the planet was.”

The issue, as explained by those imitating such world interactions, is that a world would generally be tossed out of the system completely, ending up being a rogue world. Some other interaction, possibly with a passing star, would be needed to support the orbit of an eccentric world like HD 106906 b.

A comparable situation has actually been proposed for the development of Planet Nine: that its interaction with our huge worlds early in our planetary system’s history kicked it out of the inner planetary system, after which passing stars in our regional cluster supported its orbit.

Kalas went trying to find such a fly-by star for HD 106906 b, and in 2015 he and De Rosa, then at Stanford University, reported discovering a number of close-by stars that would have zipped by the planetary system 3 million years previously, possibly supplying the push required to support the world’s orbit.

Now, with exact measurements of the world’s orbit in between 2004 and 2018, Nguyen, de Rosa and Kalas present proof that the world is probably in a steady, however really elliptical, orbit around its binary star.

Exoplanet HD 106906 b Evolution

This graphic demonstrate how the exoplanet HD 106906 b might have progressed gradually, coming to its existing, extensively apart, eccentric and extremely misaligned orbit. (1) The world formed much closer to its stars, inside a circumstellar disk of gas and dust. Drag from the disk triggered the world’s orbit to decay, requiring it to spiral inward towards its outstanding set. (2) The gravitational impacts from the host stars then kicked the world out onto an unsteady orbit that practically tossed it out of the system and into deep space of interstellar area. (3) A passing star from outside the system supported HD 106906 b’s orbit and avoided the world from leaving its house system. Credit: Graphic thanks to NASA, ESA, and L. Hustak/STScI

“Though it’s only been 14 years of observations, we were still able to, surprisingly, get a constraint on the orbit for the first time, confirming our suspicion that it was very misaligned and also that the planet is on an approximately 15,000-year orbit.” Nguyen stated. “The fact that our results are consistent with predictions is, I think, a strong piece of evidence that this planet is, indeed, bound. In the future, a radial velocity measurement is needed to confirm our findings.”

The science group’s orbital measurements originated from comparing astrometric information from the European Space Agency’s Gaia observatory, which precisely maps the positions of billions of  stars, and images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Because Hubble should obscure the glare from the binary star to see the dimmer particles disk, astronomers were not able to identify the precise position of the star relative to HD 106906 b. Gaia information enabled the group to identify the binary’s position more exactly, and therefore chart the motion of the world relative to the binary in between 2004 and 2018, less than one-thousandth of its orbital duration.

“We can harness the extremely precise astrometry from Gaia to infer where the primary star should be in our Hubble images, and then measuring the position of the companion is rather trivial,” Nguyen stated.

In addition to verifying the world’s 15,000-year orbit, the group discovered that the orbit is really slanted a lot more significantly to the airplane of the disk: in between 36 and 44 degrees. At its closest method to the binary, its elliptical orbit would take it no closer than about 500 AU from the stars, suggesting that it has no result on inner worlds likewise thought to be part of the system. That is likewise the case with Planet Nine, which has actually no observed result on any of the sun’s 8 worlds.

“What I really think makes HD 106906 unique is that it is the only exoplanet that we know that is directly imaged, surrounded by a debris disk, misaligned relative to its system and is widely separated,” Nguyen stated. “This is what makes it the sole candidate we have found thus far whose orbit is analogous to the hypothetical Planet Nine.”

More on this research study:

Reference: “First Detection of Orbital Motion for HD 106906 b: A Wide-separation Exoplanet on a Planet Nine–like Orbit” by Meiji M. Nguyen, Robert J. De Rosa and Paul Kalas, 10 December 2020, The Astronomical Journal.
DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/abc012

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation (AST-1518332) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NNX15Air Conditioning89G, NNX15ADVERTISEMENT95G, HST-GO-14670/NAS5-26555). This work took advantage of NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) research study coordination network sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.