Astronomers working with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) have discovered a gas giant 100 light-years away that bears a striking resemblance to Jupiter.
Scientists identified a planet nearly 100 light-years away this week that almost looks like Jupiter. The planet, named 51 Eridani b, is a mere 20 million years old, according to a report from the BBC. The foreign world could offer insights into the beginning of our own solar system, as it is only a toddler by planetary standards.
The gas giant was spotted by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), a high-contrast imaging instrument attached to the Gemini South Telescope in Chile. It analyzes the sky for dim planets orbiting nearby starts. The newly discovered planet has the strongest methane signature ever observed by astronomers, bearing a striking similarity to the methane concentrations on Jupiter.
In addition to finding a thick cloud of methane, astronomers also identified water using the GPI’s spectrometer. The findings support the hypothesis that there many of the processes that led to the formation of our own solar system would apply to others.
In most solar systems that we have explored, gas giants usually orbit their suns at a very near distance. Astronomers long believed that gas giants only formed in colder temperatures, but the discovery of these sun-hugging planets shot that idea down.
51 Eridani b is special because it likely formed at a lower temperature, very similar to the way Jupiter formed. The planet is two times the mass of Jupiter, and scientists are excited to continue researching the gas giant in search of more insights into how our solar system formed.