New planets taking shape
“We are talking about a giant planet about 3,000 times more massive than Earth, situated 2.7 times further from its star than the Earth is from the Sun,” said Anne-Marie Lagrange, an astronomer at France’s National Center for Scientific Research and lead author of a study in Nature Astronomy. The new planet, b Pictoris c, completes its orbit roughly every 1,200 days. Like its big sister b Pictoris b, discovered by Lagrange and her team in 2009, it is a gassy giant. Visible with the naked eye, Beta Pictoris—with a mass nearly twice that of the Sun—is a newborn by comparison: Only 23 million years old. The Sun is more than 4.5 billion years old. It is also relatively nearby, just over 63 light years, and surrounded by a disk of stellar dust. This swirling halo of debris and gas was the first such configuration to be captured in image, making Beta Pictoris a celebrity star in the 1980s.