AU Mic is part of an association of young stars that formed at about the same time in the same place. Beta Pictoris, the star that gives its name to this association, also has a disc and two known planets. Both the star and the planets are however considerably more massive (1.75 times the mass of the Sun, and 11 and nine times the mass of Jupiter, respectively), but they do not appear to have evolved in the same way as AU Mic and its planet. Studying these two systems, which have many characteristics in common, scientists can compare two very different scenarios of planetary formation.
Many surprises undoubtedly still hide within AU Mic's system, the iREX researchers believe. Will further observations of the system with TESS confirm the existence of other planets? Is the atmosphere of the planet outgassing because of the strong stellar activity? How does this system compare to others of the same age? Those are all questions for future study.
This video presents the discovery of AU Mic b. Credit NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre.
About this study
"A planet within the debris disk around the pre-main-sequence star AU Microscopii" was published on June 25, 2020 in Nature. In addition to Jonathan Gagné (iREx, Université de Montréal, Space for Life), the research team includes first author Peter Plavchan from George Mason University; second author Thomas Barclay, an associate research scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and an associate project scientist for TESS at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and 82 other co-authors, including former iREx member David Berardo, now a PhD student at MIT.
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