Making Jupiters

August 21, 2009
A three-color infrared image of the IC 348 Nebula. Some of the stars in this young cluster could have Jupiter-sized planets orbiting them. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

IC348 is a glowing nebula of young stars, hot gas, and cold dust seen in the direction of the constellation of Perseus. It is the nearest rich cluster of young stars to earth, being only about one thousand light-years away. Its proximity has made it an important laboratory for astronomers probing the early stages of stellar evolution and star formation. At an estimated age of only two to three million years, it is also a somewhat young cluster; IC348 did not shine in the night sky of the first hominids. For comparison, our sun is about 4.5 billion years old.

Most stars less than about a million years old are still surrounded by the disks of material from which they formed. These primordial disks contain gas and dust that is also the raw material for planets. As the star ages, planets and smaller bodies form out of some of that material; the rest is soon expelled, or accreted onto the star. After about 3-7 million years, the initial disks are gone. But then a new kind of disk begins to develop as orbiting rocky bodies collide with each other to produce a dusty disk of debris that can be seen with infrared instruments.

This is the simple picture, anyway, that astronomers think is the most consistent with their observations to date. The problem is that sensitive new data from the , and other telescopes, suggest that primordial disks disappear faster, and debris disks appear sooner, around mid- or high mass stars than they do around stars like the sun or smaller. How and why this could occur is an important part of the story of how planets form in stellar systems.

The stars in IC348 have a range of masses and a median age perfect for probing the timing of disk evolution. SAO astronomers Thayne Currie and Scott Kenyon combined new Spitzer observations of IC348 with spectra taken using the 1.5m Tillinghast telescope at the Fred L. Whipple Observatory, and other archival datasets. They find clear evidence that the primordial disks around high and intermediate mass stars do disappear relatively quickly.

Their results imply that such stars have much less time to form giant gas planets -- those like Jupiter and Saturn -- than do their solar-mass counterparts. Since there is some evidence that Jupiter-like planets commonly exist around larger stars, there must be some very rapid (a few million years) and efficient ways of making them.

Astronomers have only recently begun to propose some ways that might happen. The new observations help lend some credibility to the emerging picture of giant gas around massive .

Source: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Explore further: Rapid-born planets present 'baby picture' of our early solar system

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3 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2009
Any jupiters made around such young stars should be visible by their heat of formation. Might be perfect for actually spotting one with the right telescopes.
1 / 5 (5) Aug 22, 2009

Measurements from the Galileo probe that entered Jupiter in 1995 indicate that this process made Jupiter:

Lightweight elements like H, He, C and N from the outer layer of a supernova -- mixed with a late spike of actinide elements (Th, U, Pu) and heavy isotopes of other elements (e.g., Xe-136) from the r-process -- formed Jupiter.

Isotope and element abundances in Jupiter are unlike those at the surface of the Sun [See: Adam Nolte and Cara Lietz (2000) "Abundances of hydrogen and helium isotopes in Jupiter", in The Origins of the Elements in the Solar System: Implications of Post 1957 Observations (O. K. Manuel, Editor) Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, NY, 589-643].

Excess heat coming from Jupiter is probably generated by the late spike of actinide elements that were by rapid neutron capture, made together with excess Xe-136, in the supernova that gave birth to the solar system 5x10^9 year (Gyr) ago.

See: "The origin, composition, and energy source for the Sun" [Abstract #1041, 32nd Lunar & Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, 12-16 March 2001] for a very brief (2-page) summary of the origin of Jupiter and the solar system.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
1 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2009
Sol's planets are formed with the aid our our Sun's brown dwarf companion. They are first seeded with primordial black holes. The following shows how planets about other stars can be modeled. Three examples with data verifying some of the larger planets are offered.
Of Undiscovered Planets And Intelligent Life Forms

See also

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