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The telescope VLT of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), located in the chilean desert of Atacama, has captured the first direct image of a young star similar to the Sun accompanied by two exoplanets giants. Images of systems with multiple extrasolar planets are extremely rare and, until now, astronomers had never observed of this way more than a planet, orbiting a star similar to our own. The observations can help astronomers to understand how they formed and evolved in our own solar system.

Location of the system T & cs 8998-760-1 – THAT The system is located about 300 light-years away in the constellation Musca, and is known as TAC 8998-760-1. The star has just 17 million years ago. It is a version very young of our own Sun. “This environment is very similar to our Solar System, but in a much earlier stage of its evolution”, explains Alexander Bohn, phd student at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, who led the new research published in “Astrophysical Journal Letters”.

“although astronomers have detected indirectly thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a small fraction of these exoplanets have been imaged directly,” says co-author Matthew Kenworthy, an associate professor at the University of Leiden. The direct image of two or more exoplanets around the same star is even more rare. Until now, only had been observed, two of these systems, both around stars very different from our Sun.

In the new image, the two planets can be seen as two bright points of light, distant from its parent star, which is located in the top left of the box. By taking different images at different times, the team was able to distinguish these planets from the background stars.

The two gas giants orbiting their host star at distances of 160 and approximately 320 times the Earth-Sun distance. This places these planets much further from their star than Jupiter (five times) or Saturn (ten times), also two gas giants, are of the Sun. The team also found that the two exoplanets are much heavier than those of our Solar System: the planet’s internal has 14 times the mass of Jupiter, and the external six times.

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These images were made possible thanks to the high performance of the instrument SPHERE at the VLT. Blocks the bright light of the star using a device called a coronagraph, which allows you to see the planets much weaker. While the planets most ancient, like those of our Solar System are too cold to be encountered with this technique, the planets most young people are hotter and shine brighter in the infrared light. When taking multiple images over the past year, and to use older data that date back to 2017, the research team confirmed that the two planets are part of the star system.

Future additional observations will allow to test whether these planets formed in their current location distant from the star, or if you migrated from another place. Perhaps even may appear worlds lowest mass now invisible. The authors remind us that these direct observations are important in the search of environments that can support life.