If Victoria’s Secret were to have their own planet it would look like the giant new world that has scientists at NASA baffled over it’s massive size and it’s bright pink color. Planet GJ 504b is four times the size of Jupiter and is so huge that it’s the largest-mass planet orbiting a star like the sun ever detected using direct imaging technology.
Not only is GJ 504b gigantic, it’s also shattering current conceptions of how large planets form. The prevailing theory, known as the core-accretion model, states that Jupiter-like planets form after a series of collisions between debris create a mass with a gravitational pull strong enough to rapidly attract surrounding gas-rich debris, molding the accumulation of debris into a crude planetary form. But one stipulation of the theory is that it only applies to planets orbiting up to 30 astronomical units (AU) from their sun — 1 AU is equivalent to Earth’s distance from the sun. GJ 504b orbits its star at a distance of 43.5 AU, nearly nine times the distance Jupiter orbits our sun. That discovery has scientists baffled at how GJ 504b could have been formed.
“This is among the hardest planets to explain in a traditional planet-formation framework,” Markus Janson, a member of the team that discovered GJ 504b, said in a NASA press release. “Its discovery implies that we need to seriously consider alternative formation theories, or perhaps to reassess some of the basic assumptions in the core-accretion theory.”
The young age of GJ 504b and the solar system around it is also in question, according to Michael McElwain, a member of the discovery team. In fact, according to McElwain, the planet’s age is directly responsible for that odd fuchsia hue.
“If we could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta,” McElwain said. “Our near-infrared camera reveals that its color is much more blue than other imaged planets, which may indicate that its atmosphere has fewer clouds.”
The team at NASA is saying that GJ 504b’s sun is just 160 million years old, which is really young if you consider our sun is over 5 billion years old. The relative youth of GJ 504b and it’s solar system indicates to scientists that it is still undergoing changes. Studying these changes may provide more insight into planetary formation, as well as the future of our own solar system.
“Our sun is about halfway through its energy-producing life, but GJ 504 is only one-thirtieth its age,” added McElwain. “Studying these systems is a little like seeing our own planetary system in its youth.”
For more on the story, check out [JonathanTurley]