back to article Astroboffins baffled after spotting solar system with great gas giant that shouldn't exist

A gas giant orbiting a tiny red dwarf star thirty light years away has left astronomers baffled because it's not supposed to exist. That's according to a study published in Science on Thursday. Under the standard model of planet formation, the object known as GJ 3512 b should have never been born as it’s considered almost …

  1. timrowledge

    I can’t access the full paper but the abstract mentions planetary mass that doesn’t seem likely to work out to “270 times its star”. Maybe 1/270?

    1. Chris Miller

      You're right. A planet more massive (certainly 100s of times more massive) than a star would be ... a star.

      1. LionelB

        Indeed. Or at the very least, we'd be talking about a star orbiting around a planet. Which definitely sounds odd.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Indeed. Or at the very least, we'd be talking about a star orbiting around a planet. Which definitely sounds odd."

          It's not a problem, so long as the elephants remember to cock a leg to let it past every now and then.

    2. Saruman the White
      Pint

      The star is about 250-270 times the mass of the planet. Basically El Reg reversed the relationships; I suspect they got down to the pub a bit earlier than usual.

      1. ghp

        The original article says " so the maximum mass ratio between the star and the planet is 270. " When I read the register's, I was left wondering if the star was orbiting the planet.

    3. KittenHuffer

      That goof has already been removed from the article.

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Error

      Yes, it's 1/270. This blunder has been fixed.

      Please don't forget to email corrections@theregister.co.uk if you spot anything wrong so they can be fixed immediately.

      C.

  2. caffeine addict Silver badge

    the maximum distance between both bodies is about twice as close as the Earth is to the Sun

    What, exactly, is this supposed to mean? Do you mean half as far away?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      The English language is well on it's way down the toilet.

      The trouble is once the flush has started, it's difficult to stop.

      Could the planet have been a rogue that was captured by the star?

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        @ChrisG that was my thought when I read the article.

      2. Wilseus

        "The English language is well on it's way down the toilet."

        Ahem, its.

        However I agree with your sentiment.

        1. Tom Paine Silver badge

          However Nevertheless, I agree with the sentiment you expressed.

          No need to thank me, it's all part of the premium GrammarNazi add-on package in your Pedantry4U service!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Could the planet have been a rogue that was captured by the star?"

        Are you asking if a rogue planet could be captured by a rouge star?

        1. James 51 Silver badge
          Joke

          Sounds like the title for a glam rock album.

          1. hoola Bronze badge

            Nah, the next outing for Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.

      4. MOH

        I'm tempted to downvote you for not saying "rouge" and giving me something to complain about

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Its meant to mean 'pay per word'.

    3. Wilseus

      "What, exactly, is this supposed to mean? Do you mean half as far away?"

      That's what I took it to mean.

    4. Graham Cunningham
      Joke

      Pythagoras (or was it Archimedes?)

      c = s ^ -1

      (Closeness = 1 / distance)

    5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Is it very close, or is it very large and far away?

    6. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      " Do you mean half as far away?"

      It orbits in 204 days. That means its orbit is smaller/nearer/closer than the earth's. (Kepler's third law.) So I assume she means an apogee of ~0.5 AU. It was lousy phrasing, though.

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Careful, Kepler's laws only apply around a common star. Since this star is less massive than the Sun orbital periods will be longer for the same size orbit than they would be with the Sun in the centre.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          But that star is smaller than the Sun and the orbital period of that planet is less than a terrestrial year, so there is no contradiction.

        2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          "Kepler's laws only apply around a common star."

          I deleted a rather long caveat about this. (I've learnt my lesson.) Yes, you have to know the region a set of rules operate in. But, as you point out, it was fine. We were trying to determine the orbital "radius" of the planet and a quicker orbit around a lighter star means it must be closer in than the earth.

          (And while I'm here, I meant aphelion---or apastron, if you're being a real pedant---not apogee.)

          1. Grooke

            Does "aphelion" apply to other stars than the sun? KSP uses "apoapsis".

    7. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "Do you mean half as far away?"

      Yeah, that could have been worded better. It means the maximum distance between both bodies is about half the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

      It's been tweaked.

      C.

  3. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The standard model of planet formation

    is very simple and very naive. It requires a uniformity in the accretion disk that I find hard to imagine in 2nd generation systems where the concentration of material that sets the thing going is likely to come from the collision of two or more shock wave from supernova and some interstellar junk as well.

    Just looking at the remnants that adorn the heavens today you should be able to imagine places where large planets form in clumps of 'disk' long before other parts collapse to form stars as a(?) shock wave passed through. For every nice accretion disk there are a billion acned teenagers faces that will also form planetary systems.

    1. aks Bronze badge

      Re: The standard model of planet formation

      Most stars seem to have companion stars (binary, etc.). It may be that these are two gas eddies that formed at the same time. The "gas planet" may simply be a very poor attempt at a companion star rather than being formed from the leftovers from the creation of the main star.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: The standard model of planet formation

        My thought too. As for migrating in, most gas giants we have found are hot Jupiters. It's thought that Jupiter started to migrate in but was hauled back by the formation of Saturn. That also explains the small size of Mars and the asteroid belt. The belt mass was prevented from accreting to Mars by Jupiter's movement and gravity.

        But natural experiments like this and our own system are what drives the evolution of our models. Scientific models are like battle plans. In the ideal world they should fall apart quite often in contact with reality.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: The standard model of planet formation

          "...most gas giants we have found are hot Jupiters."

          Sampling bias. They're easiest to detect.

      2. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: The standard model of planet formation

        "Most stars seem to have companion stars (binary, etc.). It may be that these are two gas eddies that formed at the same time."

        As far as I can tell, that's exactly what the paper suggests:

        "We therefore considered a competing model of planet formation by gravitational instability of the gas disk at very young ages, when the disk is still massive relative to the star"

        Basically, they say that models assuming the planet formed by having lots of little rocks collide long after the star has formed don't work, but assuming the planet and star formed around the same time directly from the gas cloud work quite well. Which doesn't sound particularly revolutionary at all; far from overturning the standard model of planet formation, it just says that in this particular case one of the ways bodies can form doesn't work but the other way we already knew of does.

        Edit: I should note that the paper seems absolutely fine, they just say "Here's a fairly rare thing to see, we checked the two ways we think it could have happened and only the second one fits.". It's just a bit disappointing to see El Reg engaging in the shoddy tabloid "Einstein Proven Wrong!" style of science reporting. Astroboffins are not baffled, and no-one ever claimed this planet should not exist. The science is interesting enough on its own, it doesn't need this kind of overblown clickbait nonsense to try to sell it.

        1. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: The standard model of planet formation

          I'm not unsympathetic to your case, but I've the (possibly erroneous) impression that the commentards who read El Reg astro stories are a little better informed than the general lay public, and mentally sift the hyperbole from the headlines.

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: The standard model of planet formation

            Some, but I did not get the actual gist of the research until the above comment.

      3. caffeine addict Silver badge

        Re: The standard model of planet formation

        Presumably that would mean it's almost entirely made of the same material as stars (H, He) rather than more complex gasses. That should be testable, no?

        1. caffeine addict Silver badge

          Re: The standard model of planet formation

          Elements. Not gasses. Damnit.

      4. MOH

        Re: The standard model of planet formation

        And this is their sofa, is it?

      5. Scroticus Canis

        Re: The standard model of planet formation

        Seems the most likely explanation. One eddy in the collapsing gas and dust cloud just made it to stellar mass, the other didn't. Probably halted as the red dwarf reached ignition mass and density dispersing the rest of the cloud via radiation pressure.

      6. HildyJ

        Re: The standard model of planet formation

        The same thought occurred to me. We know of binary systems comprised of two red dwarfs (e.g. DG CVn that Swift discovered in 2014) so why not a red dwarf and a failed red dwarf (i.e. a gas giant)?

      7. aks Bronze badge

        Re: The standard model of planet formation

        Twin baby stars grow amongst a twisting network of gas and dust

        https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191004095938.htm

        Image https://www.google.com/search?q=BHB2007&client=firefox-b-d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjwjMO4ooflAhWGQUEAHR2lAgUQ_AUIESgB&biw=1150&bih=767#imgrc=hBLeVGPM6D7QtM:

    2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: The standard model of planet formation

      They might start out that way, but once rotation sets in, things get uniform really fast. Believe me, the astroboffins know far more about their subject that you or I. It would not be the "standard" model by now if it were so trivially flawed.

  4. Twanky Bronze badge

    I blame the Jokers

  5. old_IT_guy

    Speculation about other reasons

    Possibly captured from a different star during a very rare but not impossible close encounter; crowded or busy stellar clusters can I believe eject members; or the Gas Giant itself was ejected from a different system during a turbulent youth and captured by the minnow it currently orbits.

    As you can see from my handle, I'm no Astro-boffin, this is pure speculation

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: Speculation about other reasons

      We expect planetary captures to be quite rare. This is because the amount of potential + kinetic energy between two objects remains constant unless some third source intervenes. See for example, the two comets from "out there"--they leave & don't come back.

      The problem is, this system is only 30 light years away, which means that you're dealing with the 1 in million chance happening 90% of the time problem.

      Another commentard has claimed to have read the paper, which basically says that this gas giant is really a failed binary star. So no need for capture.

  6. TVU

    "Astroboffins baffled after spotting solar system with great gas giant that shouldn't exist"

    ^ Then that says that the existing models of solar system formation are incomplete/inaccurate/both. Instead of whining, drop all the prejudices about what is and is not possible when it comes to planet formation and come up with a better model. Simples, innit?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Then that says that the existing models of solar system formation are incomplete/inaccurate/both."

      I think it was due to that chap Eddie and his sofa. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the best.

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        You'll have to excuse me, I'm looking for a gin and tonic.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          And you are the lemon?

  7. Blofeld's Cat
    Coat

    Er ...

    You know that situation when a customer orders something but never collects it ?

    And how the thing invariably kicks about in the office for weeks until somebody gets fed up and stores it somewhere where it's out of the way ?

    Well the Magratheans made custom-built planets ...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call it planet BREXIT

    Shouldn't exist

    Baffling

    Out of reach

    Gaseous

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