A second planet has been discovered circling Beta Pictoris, a fledgling star in our own galaxy offering astronomers a rare glimpse of a planetary system in the making, according to a study published Monday.
“We talking about a giant planet about 3,000 times more massive than Earth, situated 2.7 times further from its star than the Earth is from the Sun,” said Anne-Marie Lagrange, an astronomer at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research and lead author of a study in Nature Astronomy.
The new planet, b Pictoris c, completes its orbit roughly every 1,200 days. Like its big sister b Pictoris b, discovered by Lagrange and her team in 2009, it is a gassy giant.
Visible with the naked eye, Beta Pictoris — with a mass nearly twice that of the Sun — is a newborn by comparison: only 23 million years old.
The Sun is more than 4.5 billion years old.
It is also relatively nearby, just over 63 light years, and surrounded by a disk of stellar dust, according to a report by AFP.
“To better understand the early stage of formation and evolution, this is probably the best planetary system we know of,” Lagrange said.