Astronomers may have discovered twin planets that share the same orbit

Astronomers may have discovered twin planets that share the same orbit

Spanish astronomers have made a discovery that could revolutionize our understanding of planetary systems. The team of researchers found two planets that share the same orbit around their star.

This latest discovery could prove the existence of a phenomenon that has long been suspected but not proven, at least until today.

A potentially revolutionary discovery

Using a powerful telescope in Chile, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Subarray Array (ALMA), Spanish scientists used Note the debris cloud in the same orbit as the planet Previously confirmed, it is located 370 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus.

This cloud, which could be a planet in the making or the remnants of a planet that once existed, appears to share the orbit of an exoplanet It is known to orbit the young star PDS 70, a star 400 light-years away It is known to “host” two Jupiter-like planets called PDS 70b and PDS 70c.

“Like Unicorns”

Worlds sharing an orbit are known as Trojan planets or, for the outer planets, exoplanets: “Two decades ago it was theoretically expected that pairs of planets of similar mass could share the same orbit around their star, the so-called Trojan planets or co-orbiting planets. For the first time we have found evidence for this theoryexplains astrophysicist Olga Balsalobre Rosa of the Center for Astrobiology in Spain.

In our solar system, co-orbiting bodies, called Trojans, are very common. The prime example is the Trojan asteroids, approx 12,000 space rocks travel in two swarms along Jupiter’s orbit around the sun, one leading the planet, the other following it. Experts predicted that Trojan planets must also exist in the universe, but finding concrete evidence was very difficult: “The Isotrojans have so far been like unicorns,” Jorge Lillo Box, one of the team’s astrophysicists, said in a statement. “The theory admits it exists, but no one ever discovered it.”

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The system is at the heart of discovery
The system is at the heart of discovery

The situation has changed thanks to a precious image taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope. The existing system has a star at the center, around which the planet PDS 70b orbits (highlighted with a yellow filled circle). In the same orbit as PDS 70b, indicated by a solid yellow ellipse, astronomers spotted a debris cloud (circled by a dashed yellow line) which, as mentioned earlier, could be the building blocks of a new planet or the remnants of an already formed planet.

The search is not over yet

Astronomers found this cloud after detecting a faint signal from one of the two regions of PDS 70b’s orbit. This signal indicates the presence of a debris cloud with a mass up to twice that of Earth’s moon. In fact, the system in which the discovery was made was already famous We have seen for the first time images of an exoplanet on the PDS-70 system In the making: baby gas giants called PDS-70b and PDS-70c.

Who can imagine two worlds sharing year length and housing conditions? Our work is the first evidence that this kind of world can exist. We can now imagine that a planet could share an orbit with thousands of asteroidsas with Jupiter, but it is horrible to me that the two planets can share the same orbit […] Our research is the first step in identifying co-orbiting planets in the very early stages of their formation,” says co-author Nuria Huilamo, senior research scientist at the Center for Astrobiology.

The telescope in Chile through which the discovery was made, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA)
The telescope in Chile through which the discovery was made, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA)

“Opens New Trojan Training Questionshow does it evolve and its frequency in different planetary systems,” adds Itzier de Gregorio Monsalvo, head of ESO’s science office in Chile, who also contributed to this research.

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The team will have to wait until 2026 to confirm their findings, at which time it will return to ALMA to see if both the planet and the debris cloud, which may be its twin, are moving together in their orbit around the star. If the news is confirmed, Palsaloper Rosa says it will be a revolutionary discovery and fundamental to understanding the nature of planetary systems.

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