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Old 09-15-2012, 01:23 PM
Location: Wasilla, Alaska
17,825 posts, read 20,496,555 times
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Astronomers Find Planets Orbit Sun-Like Stars In A Cluster

According to NASA-funded astronomers, planets can indeed form in dense stellar environments. This evidence comes from the recent discovery of planets that were observed orbiting sun-like stars in a crowded cluster of stars.

The newfound planets are not habitable, and are considered to be two hot Jupiters, which are massive gas planets.

Each of the hot Jupiter planets circle a different sun-like star in the Beehive Cluster, which is a collection of about 1,000 stars that appear to be swarming around a common center.


The two hot Jupiter planets, which have been named Pr0201b and Pr0211b, were discovered using the 5-foot Tillinghast telescope at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory.


The team believes planets were turned up in the Beehive cluster because it is rich in metals. Stars in the cluster have more heavy elements like iron than the sun has.

“Searches for planets around nearby stars suggest that these metals act like a ‘planet fertilizer,’ leading to an abundant crop of gas giant planets,” White said. “Our results suggest this may be true in clusters as well.”

Source: Two Hot Jupiters Found In The Beehive Cluster - Space News - redOrbit
This is a particularly interesting discovery because:
  • The Beehive Cluster is a relatively new cluster, which makes these exoplanets the youngest planets ever found;
  • Both exoplanets are "hot Jupiters," which will give us some insight as to how these gas giants form and then migrate toward their sun; and
  • Both these stars (Pr0201 and Pr0211) are "metal" rich, which acts like "planet fertilizer," to quote the article.
I recently read a paper that suggests stars with a metallicity greater than 1.8% by mass (Population I stars) are more likely to form gas giants (including our sun). Whereas, poor metallicity stars (Population II stars) are more likely to form small rocky type planets.
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