What Is a Protoplanet?
The Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a Jupiter-like protoplanet forming through a process that researchers have described as intense and violent.
- The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and ESA (European Space Agency).
- The newly forming planet captured by Hubble is called AB Aurigae b and embedded in a protoplanetary disk with distinct spiral structures swirling around and surrounding a young star that is estimated to be about 2 million years old.
- That is also about the same age our solar system was when planet formation was underway.
- It is 531 light-years away from our sun.
- This protoplanet is probably around nine times the size of Jupiter and orbits its host star at a distance of 8.6 billion miles, over two times the distance between our Sun and pluto.
- Protoplanets are small celestial objects that are the size of a moon or a bit bigger. They are small planets, like an even smaller version of a dwarf planet.
- Astronomers believe that these objects form during the creation of a solar system.
- The most popular theory of how a solar system is formed says that a giant cloud of molecular dust collapsed, forming one or more stars.
- Then a cloud of gas forms around the new star. As a result of gravity and other forces, the dust and other particles in this cloud collide and stick together forming larger masses.
- While some of these objects break apart on impact, a number of them continue to grow.
- Once they reach a certain size – around a kilometre – these objects are large enough to attract particles and other small objects with their gravity. They continue to get larger until they form protoplanets.