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NASA’s pink planet may force us to revisit our theories of how planets are formed

pink planetThere’s a large newly-discovered planet 57 light years away that’s a deep magenta in colour, and which orbits its star at a distance much farther away that Neptune is from our own sun.  GJ 504b is roughly Jupiter’s size, but several times its mass, and it’s about 4.05 billion miles from its star.  If planets are formed by accretion within the debris field surrounding a star, we can have gas giants formed as more objects within a band are swept up.  The problem is that Neptune is about at the outer edge of where a gas giant can be formed by this process, yet the pink one sits way beyond that.  There ought not to be enough stuff out that far for it to become that big.

This is the second time that the Hubble Space Telescope has found a planet that sits farther out from its star than the current theory allows for.  We might have to go back to the drawing board and come up with alternative ways in which planets are formed.  On the other hand, it might just turn out that GJ 504b turns out to be a captured proto-star rather than a conventionally formed gas giant that was formed in its present location.

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