Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 7:50 EDT
Exoplanet system with gas-giant planet
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Exoplanet system with gas-giant planet

February 20, 2014
An artist's rendering of a possible exoplanetary system with a gas-giant planet orbiting close to its parent star which is more massive than the sun. Results from the Gemini Observatorys Planet-Finding Campaign show the vast outlying orbital space around many types of stars is largely devoid of gas-giant planets, which apparently tend to dwell close to their parent stars. The campaign, which was the deepest, most extensive, direct imaging survey to date, found that around many types of stars, distant gas-giant planets are rare and prefer to cling close to their parent stars. The impact of this finding on theories of planetary formation could be significant. "It seems that gas-giant exoplanets are like clinging offspring," says Michael Liu of the University of Hawaiis Institute for Astronomy and leader of the Gemini Planet-Finding Campaign. "Most tend to shun orbital zones far from their parents. In our search, we could have found gas giants beyond orbital distances corresponding to Uranus and Neptune in our own solar system, but we didnt find any." The campaign was conducted at the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, with funding support for the team from the National Science Foundation and NASA. Liu says the campaigns results will help scientists better understand how gas-giant planets form, as the orbital distances of planets are a key signature that astronomers use to test exoplanet formation theories. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA