“Everything we know about the formation of solar systems might be wrong,” say two astronomers who discovered something “very bizarre.”
You’re not supposed to be able to find a brown dwarf (too small to ignite fusion) and a hot Jupiter close in to a young star. There’s not supposed to be enough material for such things to form around a stellar dust disk. But that’s just what an astronomy professor and his postdoc at the University of Florida found: a “binary-binary” that “calls solar system formation into question.”
Everything we know about the formation of solar systems might be wrong, says University of Florida astronomy professor Jian Ge and his postdoc, Bo Ma. They’ve discovered the first “binary-binary” — two massive companions around one star in a close binary system, one so-called giant planet and one brown dwarf, or “failed star” The first, called MARVELS-7a, is 12 times the mass of Jupiter, while the second, MARVELS-7b, has 57 times the mass of Jupiter.
Astronomers believe that planets in our solar system formed from a collapsed disk-like gaseous cloud, with our largest planet, Jupiter, buffered from smaller planets by the asteroid belt. In the new binary system, HD 87646, the two giant companions are close to the minimum mass for burning deuterium and hydrogen, meaning that they have accumulated far more dust and gas than what a typical collapsed disk-like gaseous cloud can provide. They were likely formed through another mechanism. The stability of the system despite such massive bodies in close proximity raises new questions about how protoplanetary disks form. The findings, which are now online, will be published in the November issue of the Astronomical Journal.
The two stars are only as far apart as Uranus is from the sun. The giant planets are 0.1 and 1.5 AU from the larger star. “For such large companion objects to be stable so close together defies our current popular theories on how solar systems form,” the press release says. It took eight years and multiple methods of observation to confirm this “very bizarre” system.
The astronomers are apparently aware that discoveries at Pluto are also challenging theories of solar system formation. The headline begins, “First Pluto, now this.” See our coverage of Pluto news to see why that is the case.
If this stellar system is unstable, it probably did not form eons ago. One anomaly this bad can falsify a theory.
We usually hear “everything you know is wrong” from the paleoanthropologists. This time it comes from the astronomers. What do they both have in common? Here’s what— a secular materialist worldview.