Planets come in all sizes and of all types. In our own solar system, one can see a great variety. There’s mighty Jupiter, beautiful Saturn, tiny Mercury and the blue planet Earth among others. Today we will talk about a strange exoplanet (a planet that is revolving a star other than the Sun) that is colored magenta.
Discovered in 2013, Gliese 504 b ( aka. GJ 504 b) is a Jovian planet orbiting the star 59 Virginis, located in the constellation of Virgo around 57 light years away. Similar to Jupiter, the planet was discovered using HiCIAO instrument and AO188 adaptive optics system on the 8.2 meter Subaru Telescope.
The project started as a part of the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS) survey. The aim of the SEEDS survey is to use the Subaru Telescope to observe and classify giant exoplanets.
For those who don’t know, the Subaru Telescope is 8.2 m Flagship telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, located at the Mauna Kea Observatory on Hawaii. Named after the open star cluster, the Pleiades, it held the record of the largest monolithic primary mirror in the world until 2005.
Although the discovery images were snapped much earlier (in 2011), the discovery papers were submitted to The Astrophysical Journal in February of 2013 and were published in September that year.
Although at first sight, the planet may seem to be made of bubblegum, it ain’t. The magenta color is due to its intense heat of formation, burning the planet at an extreme temperature of 500 K. Although the planet is around the same size as of Jupiter, yet it is 4 times more massive.
Being composed of pink gas is not only the reason alone why the gas giant is considered strange. The planet has a projected separation of about 43.5 AU (around 6.4* 10^10 km) from its host star, around 9 times the distance at which Jupiter orbits the Sun. The problem with such a big orbital distance is that the standard core accretion model fails to explain the formation of gas giants at such a big distance from their host stars.
The planet orbits G0-type star GJ 504 (Learn more about classification here), slightly hotter than our sun and is faintly visible to the unaided eye in the constellation Virgo.
“Our sun is about halfway through its energy-producing life, but GJ 504 is only one-thirtieth its age, Studying these systems is a little like seeing our own planetary system in its youth.” -NASA
Every time a new discovery is made in the field of astronomy, it raises much more questions than it answers. The planet brought with it the need for a new model for the formation of planets in a solar system. As always, the question remains, what new discoveries will be made in the near future, and what will be mankind able to learn from them?