By Kevin C.Neece
Astronomers believe it’s possible they’ve discovered evidence of a Trojan planetary system, a system in which two planets share the same orbit. This is a possibility that has long been hypothesized but never observed. Unless these recent discoveries are confirmed by the suspicions of scientists.
Scientists have finally found evidence of the Trojan planets, two planets that share an orbit, in a distant galaxy.
The newspaper Astronomy and astrophysics the recently published findings of astronomers studying the possible Trojan planetary system orbiting PDS 70, which is a young star that appears in the constellation Centaurus. The system is at a distance of about 370 light-years from Earth and, if verified, it would be the first ever discovery of its kind by scientists. And so far, the evidence looks good.
The possible Trojan planet trails a huge gaseous exoplanet, PDS 70b, which is about three times the size of Jupiter. A debris cloud is twice as massive as our Moon on the same orbital path. This mass, astronomers speculate, could either be a new planet beginning to form, or the remains of one that has been torn apart.
The researchers considered the Trojan planets to be “like unicorns”, theoretically possible, but never observed until now.
A co-author of the study, Jorge Lillo-Box, a researcher at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, said in a statement that the Trojan planets (or “exotrojans”) have so far been “like unicorns”. Although they are theoretically possible, their observation has never been confirmed. The discovery of a system containing this phenomenon would be a long-held hypothesis coming to life.
The concept of Tojan planets is based on the known and common existence of Trojan bodies. These rocks asteroid bodies share an orbital path with a planet and occur across our solar system, including thousands of asteroids in Jupiter’s orbital path. If these bodies can exist along planetary orbits, astronomers have speculated, then it might be possible for entire planets to do the same, given the right conditions.
These conditions which could allow the existence of a Trojan planet have, until now, been so extremely rare that they have remained hitherto unknown. The prospect of discovering planets that share the same orbit, says Olga Balsalobre-Ruza, is “breathtaking.”
The Trojan planets can be found in science fiction, with wonder‘s Counter-Earth as just an example.
Balsalobre-Ruza would know; she is the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Astrobiology. Together, she and Lillo-Box embarked on a potentially auspicious discovery that could put them in the history books of the field of astronomy.
With their research team, the pair searched for Trojan planets in data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a network of radio telescopes in Chile. They used the network to scan the PDS 70 system, where they found both the gas giant PDS 70b and the debris cloud, which was in the same position they would expect to find a Trojan planet. But it will take some time before they can confirm their findings.
If they have indeed found evidence of Trojan planets, they won’t know for sure until at least 2026, when they can measure the orbit of PDS 70b and the debris cloud around the star PDS 70. If their findings are confirmed, they will become the discoverers of an astronomical unicorn.