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Are we alone?

Nestled between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, sits a strange and intriguing star, CI Tau. Orbiting it are four giant gas-planets, similar to Jupiter and Saturn. CI Tau is sitauted about 500 light years away from Earth, within a very active part of the galaxy termed a ‘stellar nursery’. This newly found star is a mere 2 million years old (as compared to our Sun which is 5 million years old), labelling it an infant in stellar terms. This is the first time that so many massive planets have been detected in such a young system. Astronomers have had their eye on this star since 2011 and in 2016 noticed a hot Jupiter – sparking a great deal of interest.

At present, CI Tau is home to four planets, enormous planets. Two are bigger than Jupiter, and the other two are about the same size as Saturn. The innermost planet is actually one of the biggest planets ever discovered, about ten times the size of Jupiter; with the furthest more than twice as far away as Pluto is from our Sun. And it is possible that more planets might join their midst.

CI Tau is so young that the material around it hasn’t finished forming into planets; instead, that material forms a disk of dust and gas around the star called a protoplanetary disk. Scientists will be busy studying how these types of planets form – which might give insight as to how our Solar System developed.

 

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