Planets Remarkably Similar to Jupiter And Neptune Found Orbiting a Sun-Like Star

A warm, wet world bubbling with a complicated soup of molecules may not be sufficient to discover life on other worlds. Additionally, it might be advantageous to have the appropriate types of planets nearby.

A fascinating duo of gas giants has been discovered orbiting a star that is virtually identical to the Sun and could teach us a thing or two about solar systems comparable to our own.

The star HIP 104045, which is only 175 light-years distant, appears to be orbited by at least two giant planets, one about 2.5 times the mass of Neptune on a 316-day orbit and the other about half the mass of Jupiter on a 6.3-year orbit.

In the hopes of one day discovering a second Earth, this discovery, which was submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is accessible on the preprint website arXiv, is assisting us in comprehending the variety of systems that can circle Sun-like stars.

Earth is our only model for the circumstances required for life because it is the only location in the universe that has been known to produce a biosphere. However, Earth is not an island; it is surrounded by a vast solar system that includes the Sun, seven other planets, uncountable asteroids, and dwarf planets.

According to recent research, a planet's habitability in our solar system depends significantly on the planetary system's design. It's crucial to have meteorites and comets nearby because they can bring essential components to planets.

Jupiter also appears to play a major role, shielding the interior Solar System from the continuous barrage of tiny rocks by guiding the asteroid belt and the asteroids that circle within its orbit. But its powerful gravity also has the power to destabilize the orbits of those smaller planets, hurling them in the direction of the interior Solar System. Jupiter probably helped those asteroids reach Earth early in the evolution of the system.

We could do worse than searching for planets like Jupiter for other reasons if we want to narrow down our choices for where to seek for life.

"Jupiter analogs form preferentially around stars with metallicities close to solar, and strikingly, potentially habitable low-mass planets could be common around stars that host a cold Jupiter," writes an international team of astronomers led by Thiago Ferreira of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

"Giant planets are less frequent than small Earth-sized worlds. These elements establish examples for searching for Jupiter-like planets instead of Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars."

Since 2014, scientists have been looking for planets around Sun-like stars using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the La Silla 3.6-meter observatory of the European Southern Observatory in the Chilean Atacama Desert.

HIP 104045 appears to be a close match. Its chemical composition resembles the Sun's in many ways. The Solar is 4.57 billion years old, and this object is roughly 4.5 billion years old. Just 1.03 times the mass, 1.05 times the radius, and 1.11 times the brightness of the Sun are shared by HIP 104045.

Ferreira and his team discovered proof of two worlds when they examined the radiation from HIP 104045.

The first planet, with a mass of 0.498 Jupiter masses, is what is referred to as a Jupiter analogue: an exoplanet with a mass between 0.3 and 3 Jupiter masses and an orbit between 3 and 7 AU from its star, suggesting that it is likely to have dynamical properties similar to Jupiter in our own Solar System.

Super-Neptune describes the second asteroid. This finding is roughly 43 times the mass of Earth, whereas our own Neptune is 17 Earth masses. The planet is unlikely to be a terrestrial world like ours because the top limit for rocky planets is believed to be around 10 Earth masses; instead, it is more likely to be gaseous in character.

But at least it is in what is referred to as the hopeful safe zone. The hopeful habitable zone is a broader distance range where livable temps are potentially feasible, but you might be slightly stretching your luck. The habitable zone is the distance range from the host star that is within a temperature range for liquid water.

Just remember not to get your expectations up. We presently lack the ability to analyze the atmosphere of the planet to look for biosignatures because it doesn't pass in front of us and its star.

Could there still be a tiny, rocky planet teeming with extraterrestrial goop circling HIP 104045? Even though we might expect the finding of a Jupiter analog will indicate that an Earth-like planet is nearby, the fact that the super-Neptune orbits so closely to the star puts the lie to that theory.

The existence of the super-Neptune, according to the researchers, is yet another indication that our Solar System is unusual, with similar systems only happening around a small percentage of Sun-like stars.

Of course, the knowledge we currently possess is far from sufficient. There are many stars in the universe. Therefore, we'll just keep searching.

The team's research has been submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and is available on arXiv.