Astronomers find planets within a cluster of stars


Astronomers have found two massive gas-giants located within a dense cluster of stars. This is the first time that planets have been found in this type of environment. Each of the two planets orbits a different star in the Beehive Cluster, which consists of about 1,000 stars located between 520 and 610 light years away. The stars in the Cluster are believed to orbit a common center. While there are a number of different types of stars in the Cluster, each of the two planets were found orbiting Sun-like stars. The Beehive Cluster is estimated to be about 600 million years old, and you can actually observe it at night – it looks a little like a nebula with the naked eye, and its in the constellation Cancer. The Cluster was known in ancient times, and Galileo was able to observe 40 stars within the cluster with one of his first telescopes. “We are detecting more and more planets that can thrive in diverse and extreme environments like these nearby clusters,” Mario R. Perez, a NASA astrophysicist said in a press release. “Our galaxy contains more than 1,000 of these open clusters, which potentially can present the physical conditions for harboring many more of these giant planets.” The astronomers discovered these planets by observing stars in the Cluster with the Tillinghast telescope in Arizona. One exciting aspect of this discovery is that it helps further refine astronomers’ understanding of how planets form in the first place. In this case, it wasn’t clear whether these types of planets could form around stars like our sun when they’re located near so many other stars. Now astronomers know they can.Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the first planet found outside of our solar system wasn’t discovered until 1992. But in the 20 years since that first discovery, we’ve dramatically expanded our understanding of how planets and star systems form. This is an amazing time for astronomy.