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Still as hot as lava: one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date

A group of astronomers has discovered an exoplanet so young that it’s still as hot as liquid lava. 2M0437b was found with the Subaru telescope, which is located on the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea. The exoplanet, which is about 100 astronomical units away from its star, is several times more massive than Jupiter and could be imaged directly, explains the research team. Of the thousands of planets found near other stars, there are only a handful of objects that contribute directly to our understanding of their formation and development.

As the team explains, it is assumed there that the exoplanet with its star was formed a few million years ago. He is about as old as the Hawaiian islands, they classify that. In this comparatively short time it has not cooled down below the temperature of fresh lava, which is why it can also be photographed directly. On one image, the exoplanet can be seen directly as a point next to the darkened star. Since its discovery in 2018, it has been extensively examined and confirmed, among other things, that it is actually on the road with the star. Both are therefore in the so-called Taurus molecular cloud, in which stars are currently being formed.

Because light from the exoplanet can be analyzed directly, 2M0437b can be examined more closely than others whose existence is only indirectly known. Future investigations should now, among other things, provide information about what it consists of and where or how exactly it was created. With the James Webb space telescope, which is due to be launched soon, it may even be possible to determine components of a possible atmosphere and find out whether moons are forming around it. The team explains that there are already such good images of the celestial body due to the use of adaptive optics. In this way, inaccuracies for which the earth’s atmosphere is responsible are eliminated. The research was accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


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