Super-Jupiter Found Circling Very Young, Very Low Mass Star

The discovery of a super-Jupiter exoplanet around the M-type dwarf star 2MASS J04372171+2651014 challenges models of planet formation by either core accretion (which requires time) or disk instability (which requires mass).

This image from the Subaru Telescope shows the young super-Jupiter 2M0437b, which lies about 100 times the Earth-Sun distance from its parent star; the much-brighter star has been mostly removed, and the four ‘spikes’  are artifacts produced by the optics of the telescope. Image credit: Subaru Telescope / Gaidos et al., arXiv: 2110.08655.

This image from the Subaru Telescope shows the young super-Jupiter 2M0437b, which lies about 100 times the Earth-Sun distance from its parent star; the much-brighter star has been mostly removed, and the four ‘spikes’ are artifacts produced by the optics of the telescope. Image credit: Subaru Telescope / Gaidos et al., arXiv: 2110.08655.

2MASS J04372171+2651014 (2M0437 for short) is a single mid-M type dwarf located 421 light-years away in the constellation of Taurus.

The star is between 2 and 5 million years old, has a mass of 0.15-0.18 solar masses and an effective temperature of 3,100 K.

Otherwise known as TIC 125843782, it is a member of the 1- to 5-million-year-old Taurus star-forming region.

The newly-discovered planet, designated 2M0437b, is up to five times more massive than Jupiter.

The alien world is on a much wider orbit than the planets in the Solar System; its current separation is about 100 times the Earth-Sun distance, making it easier to observe.

“This serendipitous discovery adds to an elite list of planets that we can directly observe with our telescopes,” said Professor Eric Gaidos, an astronomer in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, the Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern, and the Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Vienna.

“By analyzing the light from this planet we can say something about its composition, and perhaps where and how it formed in a long-vanished disk of gas and dust around its host star.”

2M0437b was first spotted in March 2018 in images from the Subaru Telescope.

Professor Gaidos and colleagues used the Keck Observatory to monitor the position of the host star as it moved across the sky, confirming that the planet was truly a companion to the star, and not a more distant object.

The observations required three years because the star moves slowly across the sky.

“Two of the world’s largest telescopes, adaptive optics technology and Maunakea’s clear skies were all needed to make this discovery,” said Dr. Michael Liu, an astronomer in the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.

“We are all looking forward to more such discoveries, and more detailed studies of such planets with the technologies and telescopes of the future.”

“Observations with space telescopes such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope could identify gases in its atmosphere and reveal whether the planet has a moon-forming disk,” Professor Gaidos said.

The team’s paper will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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E. Gaidos et al. 2021. Zodiacal Exoplanets in Time (ZEIT) XII: A Directly-Imaged Planetary-Mass Companion to a Young Taurus M Dwarf Star. MNRAS, in press; arXiv: 2110.08655

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