The international team of astronomers, in the first week of August 2013, captured the image of a huge planet around the bright Sun-like star- GJ 504. The image of the exoplanet was captured by making use of the infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. The newly captured exoplanet was dubbed as GJ 504b. It is the lowest-mass planet ever detected around the star, by making use of the direct imaging techniques.
Unique features of the new exoplanet- GJ 504b
• GJ 504b has the dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta colour.
• This planet orbits around its star at approximately 9 times the distance Jupiter orbits around the Sun. This led to the challenge of finding out how giant planets are formed.
• GJ 504b lies at the projected distance of 43.5 AU from its star.
• The scientists explained that GJ 504b is one of the most complicated planets to explain on the basis of usual planet-formation framework. The discovery of this planet explains why scientists need to consider the alternative planet-formation theories as well.
• The astronomers found that GJ 504b is around four times more massive than Jupiter.
• The planet has an effective temperature of about 460 degrees Fahrenheit (237 Celsius).
• GJ 504b orbits around the G0-type star GJ 504. This star is a bit hotter than the Sun and very faintly visible to naked eyes in the constellation Virgo.
• The star around which this planet orbits is 57 light years away.
It is interesting to know that the young star systems are the best targets for directly imaging the exoplanets. This is so because the planets of such stars haven’t existed longer to lose heat from their formation, which leads to increased infrared brightness.
The SEEDS Project
• This discovery is the part of Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS) project. It is a project which directly captures the images of extrasolar planets and protoplanetary disks around thousands of nearby stars, by making use of Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
• SEEDS is a 5-year project which started off in the year 2009.
• SEEDS is led by Motohide Tamura at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).
• Imaging done under this project provides an insight into the orbit, atmosphere, temperature and luminosity of the planet. However, the planets are very faint and extremely close to their host stars, which is why it is extremely difficult to capture them.
• The SEEDS project captures the images at near-infrared wavelengths by making use of the novel adaptive optics system of telescope and two instruments: the High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics and the InfraRed Camera and Spectrograph. The combination of these enables the team to capture the direct images towards fainter planets.