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‘Planetary Heist’: Some Star Systems Might Contain Stolen Planets

Jupiter-like planets aren’t supposed to be around some stars. So why are they there? Or rather, where did they come from? In astronomy, a rule of thumb states that if a star is over three times as massive as our sun, it probably can’t have planets as big as Jupiter.

The reasoning feels pretty intuitive. Huge stars emit huge amounts of radiation, therefore creating an environment far too toxic for budding worlds to reach the size of our solar system’s gas giant — a sphere so colossal it could fit about 1,300 Earths inside . “Whilst planets can form around massive stars, it is hard to envisage gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn being able to form in such hostile environments, where radiation from the stars can evaporate the planets before they fully form,” Richard Parker, an astrophysicist at the University of Sheffield, said in a statement .

Yet (as usual) some cosmic realms seem to defy science as we know it.

In recent years, scientists have identified at least two bizarre planetary systems with both a Jupiter-size planet and a very, very large star. Coincidence? Anomaly? Erroneous discovery? Perhaps not. On Wednesday, Parker and fellow researchers from the University of Sheffield in England offered up their working theory to solve the mystery — and, well, it’s not easy to say.

Check out the size different between Earth (third planet from the sun on the left) and Jupiter (fifth planet from the sun on the left). NASA/Lunar and Planetary Institute

Maybe some massive stars are thieves, they suggest.

Maybe some stole Jupiter-size worlds from smaller star peers to carry around as if it were their own.

“Essentially, this is a planetary heist,” said Emma Daffern-Powell, an astronomer at the University of Sheffield and co-author of a study on the theory, published Wednesday in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . Sneaky star high jinks

Though our universe is a melting pot of stars, even the most contradictory stellar bodies could’ve been birthed from the same embers of gas and dust.

This is, according to the team’s new study, the root of the robbery at hand.Because planets tend to arise in those stellar nurseries too, either right by their corresponding host star or free-floating in outer space, they can be stolen by a neighboring […]

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