Hubble Finds a Massive Planet – 9 Times the Size of Jupiter – Forming Through a Violent Process

Protoplanet Around AB Aurigae

This is an artist’s illustration of a massive, newly forming exoplanet called AB Aurigae b. Researchers used new and archival data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Subaru Telescope to confirm this protoplanet is forming through an intense and violent process, called disk instability. Disk instability is a top-down approach, much different from the dominant core accretion model. In this scenario, a massive disk around a star cools, and gravity causes the disk to rapidly break up into one or more planet-mass fragments. AB Aurigae b is estimated to be about nine times more massive than Jupiter and orbits its host star over two times farther than Pluto is from our Sun. Credit: NASA, ESA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

Hubble Finds a Planet Forming in an Unconventional Way

In general, the formation of planets in our universe can be likened to cooking a meal. Just like the “ingredients” for forming a planet can change, so can the “cooking method.”

Researchers using the

AB Aurigae b Hubble Images

Researchers were able to directly image newly forming exoplanet AB Aurigae b over a 13-year span using Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and its Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrograph (NICMOS). In the top right, Hubble’s NICMOS image captured in 2007 shows AB Aurigae b in a due south position compared to its host star, which is covered by the instrument’s coronagraph. The image captured in 2021 by STIS shows the protoplanet has moved in a counterclockwise motion over time. Credit: Science: NASA, ESA, Thayne Currie (Subaru Telescope, Eureka Scientific Inc.); Image Processing: Thayne Currie (Subaru Telescope, Eureka Scientific Inc.), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Evidence shows violent collapse responsible for formation of Jupiter-like protoplanet.

DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01634-x

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

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