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Young exoplanet found nestled close to its star

Discovery adds insight into birth, first steps of Jupiter-like worlds

By
9:00am, May 31, 2016
Illustration of exoplanet CI Tau b

CLOSE UP  Scientists have found an exoplanet 11 times the mass of Jupiter cuddling up to a young star (similar to one illustrated here). The newfound planet, which orbits its 2-million-year-old star once every nine days, could help scientists understand how large planets form near their stars.

Scientists have found one of the youngest exoplanets ever, huddling close to a star that is just 2 million years old. Located 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus, the star is so young that it still has its baby fat — it is surrounded by the disk of gas and dust from which it formed.

The planet, CI Tau b, is hefty for an infant —  tipping the scales at 11 times the mass of Jupiter, say astronomer Christopher Johns-Krull of Rice University in Houston and colleagues in a paper posted May 25 on arXiv.org. It’s surprising, the researchers say, that such a large planet could have formed in just 2 million years — peanuts on cosmic timescales.

Such baby-faced exoplanets have been spotted before (SN: 12/26/15, p. 14), but they’ve lingered farther from their

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