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New Delhi: Astronomers have spotted a gas giant forming in a close orbit around a newborn star in the constellation of Taurus, designated as CI Tau. The exoplanet is being formed in the disc of gas and dust surrounding the newborn star, from the material leftover from the birth of the star. The exoplanet is only two million years old, and orbits its host star once every 25 days. This is the youngest Hot Jupiter discovered so far. The planet is still being formed.

The discovery was made using multiple ground and space based observatories. The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope located at an altitude of 4,200 metres on the top of Mount Maunakea in Hawaii, USA was used to conduct high-resolution spectroscopy to determine the displacement of the host star by the giant planet. The network of telescopes forming the Las Cumbres Observatory was used to conduct multi-wavelength photometry, which was supported by high precision space photometry from the retired Kepler telescope, both of which were used to measure slight variations in the brightness of the star because of the orbiting planet.

The findings are important as the discovery indicates that massive gas giants can form rapidly in the circumstellar discs around newborn stars. These planets can then rapidly migrate inwards, closer to the star because of the influence of gravity. The disc will dissipate in a few million years. The discovery fills some gaps in the conventional understanding of planet formation, and provides new insights into the dynamics in the inner portions of protoplanetary discs.A paper describing the findings has been published in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

What are ‘Hot Jupiter’ Exoplanets?

Going by the arrangements of planets within our own Solar System, astronomers believed that gas giants can only form in distant orbits around the host star, as is the case with Saturn and Jupiter. However, the exoplanet hunting telescopes have identified many gas giants in close orbits around their host stars, known as ‘Hot Jupiters’. These Hot Jupiters have extreme atmospheres where it rains glass and diamonds, often sideways because of high velocity winds circling the tidally locked worlds. Now, Hot Jupiters are among the most well-studied and well-understood exoplanets.

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