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Huge alien planets detected for first time

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 18/10/2018 STORM GIFFORD
a man flying through the sky © iStockphoto

Space may be the final frontier, but astronomers have a long way to go before they ever master it.

In a remarkable new discovery, scientists have detected several gigantic planets orbiting a relatively young star called CI Tau, which is only about 2 million years old. They are located in the constellation Taurus about 500 light-years away.

While that may not seem young, consider the sun is 4.5 billion years old — which is more than 2,000 times older.

Even more fascinating is that the outermost of CI Tau’s known planets revolves at a distance more than 1,000 times greater than its most innermost planet.

“This is telling us that giant planets must form rapidly in the protoplanetary disk,” astrophysicist Farzana Meru told NBC News. “(It) is in contrast to the most common model for planet formation, which involves a slow growth of a solid core followed by gas accreting onto it to form a gas giant planet.”

The closest planet to the star, named CI Tau b when it was observed for the first time in 2016, is referred to as a “hot Jupiter” because of its size and proximity to its host.

When a global squad of astronomers began studying CI Tau in 2017, they stumbled across an intriguing find — three gaps in the star’s disk. Those voids are strong evidence that three other gaseous orbs are located near CI Tau.

“Planetary systems are even more diverse that we thought,” said University of Cambridge astronomer Cathie Clark. “(They) have shown us time and time again that we need to adjust our theories in light of new data.”

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