The youngest planet yet seen faces an uncertain future. It could live a long life near its parent star. Or it could fall into the star within a few hundred million years.
The planet orbits V830 Tauri, which is about 425 light-years away. The star is only about two million years old — so young that it’s not yet shining as a true star. It’s still collapsing from a cloud of gas and dust. In a few million years, its core will get hot enough to ignite nuclear fusion, and the star will enter the main phase of life.
The planet is V830 Tauri b. It’s about three-quarters the mass of Jupiter, the giant of our own solar system. It may be losing some of that heft, though. That’s because it’s less than six million miles from the star. It’s extremely hot, which makes it puffy. As a result, the young star’s winds and radiation may be blowing gas off the top of the planet’s atmosphere.
Right now, the star’s magnetic field and other factors could be causing the planet to move farther away. And it’s possible that the planet could assume a stable orbit and last as long as the star itself. On the other hand, it could reverse direction and spiral into the star — bringing its life to a premature end.
The system is in Taurus, which is quite low in the east shortly after nightfall. V830 is to the upper left of Aldebaran, the bull’s bright orange eye. But you need a telescope to see it.
We’ll talk about an old planet tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield