Monday, January 05, 2009

Gas Giant - Grow fast or die!

Now here is a discovery that must blow a big hole in planet formation theories. If you have been noticing lately, Jupiter class extra-solar planets have been found with surprising ease over the past few years. But according to observations done with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the jovian gas giants are under the gun when it comes to formation.

Smithsonian astronomers examined the 5 million-year-old star cluster NGC 2362 and found the infra-red tell-tale of planetary formation...but with a twist.

According to the Science Daily blog:
  • They found that all stars with the mass of the Sun or greater have lost their proto-planetary disks. Only a few stars less massive than the Sun retain their proto-planetary disks. These disks provide the raw material for forming gas giants like Jupiter. Therefore, gas giants have to form in less than 5 million years or they probably won't form at all.
The forces that play into gas giant formation are not yet clearly understood, however it is clear that these mechanisms are both fast and extremely efficient.

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