Over the past four years a toolattached to a telescope in the Chilean Andes - Gemini Planet Imager - stared at 531 stars in search of new planets. And the team that worked with him published the initial results of a study in the Astronomical Journal, in which six planets and three brown dwarfs orbiting around 300 stars were captured. And here are some extremely strange and curious conclusions scientists have come.
"Over the past twenty years, astronomers have discoveredall these solar systems are really different from ours, ”says Bruce McIntosh, a professor of physics at Stanford University. “The question we want to understand in the end is this: are there any populated Earth-like planets? And one of the ways to answer it is to understand how other solar systems are formed.
Unlike other methods of finding planets,Gemini Planet Imager takes direct pictures, grabbing the dim planet from the bright light of a star that is a million times brighter.
"The giant planets in our own solarthe system is 5-30 times farther than the Earth, and for the first time we explored a similar area near other stars, ”says lead author Eric Nielsen, a scientist at the Kavli Institute.
Why is our solar system special?
Most other search methods researchinternal parts of solar systems. But the Gemini Planet Imager especially focuses on exoplanets that are large, young and far from the star they revolve around.
In our solar system, giant planetsare in its outer part. But although Gemini Planet Imager is one of the most sensitive seekers of the planets, there are still objects that escape him, and the planets that the team can see now need to be twice the size of Jupiter.
In the first part of the study, scientists found lessexoplanets than expected. However, the exoplanets found showed something interesting: each of the six planets revolved around a large bright star, despite the fact that such planets are easier to find near dim stars.
This suggests that giant planets withwide orbits are more often found around stars with a large mass - at least 1.5 times more massive than the sun. Meanwhile, stars similar to ours do not so often keep Jupiter's older brothers as small planets that show up close to their stars during missions like Kepler.
“Considering what we and other scientists have seen beforeso far, our solar system is not like other solar systems, ”says McIntosh. "We do not have as many planets packed as close to the Sun as other stars, but now we have preliminary evidence that we can be rare on the other side of the range."
Although exoplanets the size of Jupiter are behindbeyond the reach of their instruments, not even a hint of something like Jupiter among 300 stars, leaves open the possibility that our Jupiter is special.
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