Astronomers Discovered Massive Exoplanet Orbiting Its Host Star Once Every 1.1 Million Years (Planetary Science)

Astronomers with COol Companions ON Ultrawide orbiTS (COCONUTS) program, the COCONUTS-2 system, have identified a massive exoplanet, “COCONUTS-2b” in the COCONUTS-2A system, orbiting a low mass red dwarf star L 34-26. This planet has 6.3 times the mass of the Jupiter and orbits the parent star once every 1.1 million years at a distance of 6,471 AU (astronomical units). Their study recently appeared in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

L 34-26 also called COCONUTS-2A and TYC 9381-1809-1, is a M3-type dwarf star located 35 light-years away in the constellation of Chamaeleon. The star is about one-third the mass of the Sun and between 150 and 800 million years old.

Astronomers estimated that the planet has temperature of about 434 K. They also showed that, it is the nearest imaged exoplanet to Earth known to date.

In addition, astronomers suggested that, the skies of COCONUTS-2b would look dramatically different compared to the skies on the earth, due to its wide-separation orbit and cool host star.

While, the nighttime and daytime would look basically the same, with the host star appearing as a bright red star in the dark sky.

After TYC 9486-927-1b at a projected separation of 6,900 AU, this planet is the second widest and after WD 0806-661b with a temperature of 328 K this planet is the second coldest imaged exoplanet discovered so far.

COCONUTS-2b can be directly imaged thanks to emitted light produced by residual heat trapped since the planet’s formation. Still, the energy output of the planet is more than a million times weaker than the Sun’s, so the planet can only be detected using lower-energy infrared light.

The results were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Featured image: This image shows COCONUTS-2b (left) and its host star, COCONUTS-2A (right). Image credit: Zhang et al., doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac1123.

Reference: Zhoujian Zhang et al. 2021. The Second Discovery from the COCONUTS Program: A Cold Wide-orbit Exoplanet around a Young Field M Dwarf at 10.9 pc. ApJL 916, L11; doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac1123

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