The very large telescope of the European Southern Observatory (VLT ESO) has captured the first ever photograph of a young sun-like star orbiting two giant exoplanets. This is reported in a recent article in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Direct images of exoplanet systems are extremely rare and, until now, astronomers have never been able to directly observe more than one planet orbiting a sun-like star. Such observations can help to understand how the planets of the solar system formed and evolved.
Although astronomers have indirectly registered thousands of planets in our Galaxy, only a small part of them have been able to obtain direct images. Direct images of two or more exoplanets near the same star are an even rarer achievement. To date, two such systems have been observed with parent stars very different from the Sun. The new image from ESO’s VLT is the first direct image of more than one exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star.
The image was taken from the star TYC 8998-760-1, located about 300 light years away. The planets are visible as two bright points, and the parent star is located in the upper left corner of the frame. Taking multiple images at different times, astronomers were able to distinguish planets from background stars.
The planets are gas giants orbiting the parent star at distances of about 160 and 320 AU. e. (astronomical units, distances from the Earth to the Sun). Thus, they are much farther from their star than Jupiter and Saturn, the gas giants of the solar system, are from the Sun (by 5 and 10 AU, respectively). The researchers also found that these two exoplanets are much more massive than the giants of the solar system: the inner planet is 14 times and the outer one is 6 times heavier than Jupiter.
Images of this planetary system were obtained during the search for young giant planets around stars similar to the Sun, but much younger. The star TYC 8998-760-1, located in the southern constellation Fly, is only 17 million years old. For comparison, the age of the Sun is about 4.5 billion years.
Further observations of this system, including with the future ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), will allow astronomers to check whether these planets formed in their present orbits far from the parent star or migrated there. ELT will also help to identify the presence of interaction between these two young planets.
Source: ESO VLT Telescope Captures the First Image of a Planetary System Near a Sun-Like Star // ESO