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Direct from distant planet: Spectral clues to puzzling paradox

CI Tau b is a paradoxical planet, but new research about its mass, brightness and the carbon monoxide in its atmosphere is starting to answer questions about how a planet so large could have formed around a star that's only 2 million years old. Recently, National Science Foundation-funded astronomers from Lowell Observatory presented findings from a four-year near-infrared spectroscopic analysis of light from CI Tau b, a close-orbiting giant exoplanet, or "hot Jupiter," in a nine-day orbit around its parent star about 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. For decades, most astronomers believed giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn formed far from their stars over periods of 10 million years or more. But the discovery of dozens of "hot Jupiters" led to new theoretical models that describe how such planets might form. Because each atomic element and molecule in a star emits light from a unique set of wavelengths, astronomers can look for specific signatures, or spectral lines, to see if an element is present in a distant star or planets. Spectral lines can also reveal the temperature and density of a star and how fast it's moving.

Visit Website | Image credit: Joe Llama/Lowell Observatory