Newly discovered exoplanet may contain nuclear fusion in its core

Newly discovered exoplanet may contain nuclear fusion in its core

An international research team has seen signs of a merger in the core of a distant planet. The exoplanet orbits the star HD 206893, which is 130 light-years away and about 30% more massive than our Sun.

The first observations of the planet were made with the Gaia space telescope. The main job of a telescope is astrometry — measuring the positions, distances, and motions of stars. With precise measurements of the motions of the stars, the telescope should also be able to detect exoplanets.

After Gaia hinted at a planet in the star system, the Gravity instrument, on the Very Large Telescope in Chile, was targeting the star. Gravity, which combined measurements in near-infrared wavelengths from four telescopes, was able to confirm the planet’s existence.

– The discovery of HD 206893 c is a big moment for the study of exoplanets, and may be the first direct observation of an “exoplanet Gaia”, says Professor Sacha Hinckley of the University of Exeter in the UK in press release.

Using data from Gravity, the research team was also able to see how the planet’s brightness is increasing, which indicates an ongoing fusion of the hydrogen isotope deuterium at the planet’s core.

Illustration of the Gaia Space Telescope in space. Illustration: ESA/ATG Medialab, ESA/Gaia/DPAC – CC BY-SA 3.0, A. Moitinho

“failed stars”

Brown dwarfs, also called “fail stars,” are space objects that are not large enough for normal hydrogen fusion to occur in their cores. It is smaller than the lightest main sequence stars, but is believed to have a mass of at least 13 times that of Jupiter.

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Although the type of fusion found in the Sun is not possible in brown dwarf stars, fusion of the hydrogen isotope deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, can occur. The same process has now been detected with the planet HD 206893 c, which means it can be considered an intermediate between the planet and the “failed star”.

– very important

to me Scientific articleAnd accepted by the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the planet has a mass close to 13 that of Jupiter. The fact that the new planet orbits around its maximum mass when deuterium fusion is possible may influence the definition of what is an exoplanet and what is a “failed star,” according to the researchers.

The newly discovered planet lies 483 million kilometers from its star, roughly the same distance from the Sun to a point between Mars and Jupiter. Further in the star system, a more massive object has already been discovered – the brown dwarf star HD 206893 b.

– This discovery is also very important because it shows that we can now classify the atmospheres of exoplanets where we already know they are, at a distance of two to four times the distance from the Sun to Earth, says Sasha Hinckley in the press release.

The article was first published on new technology

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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