Space truly is the final frontier of human exploration, and scientists this week just announced one whopper of a discovery:
Scientists have discovered a giant planet orbiting a massive pair of extremely hot stars, an environment previously thought too inhospitable for a planet to form in.
A research article published Wednesday in the science journal Nature said the discovery of the planet, named "b Centauri (AB)b" or "b Centauri b," disproves a widely held belief among astronomers.
"Until now, no planets had been spotted around a star more than three times as massive as the Sun," wrote the European Southern Observatory, which photographed the planet from its Very Large Telescope in the Chilean desert.
In a press release, the scientists underscored that the binary star system itself has a mass of six times that of the sun, so the discovery of the planet is one heck of a game changer:
"Finding a planet around b Centauri was very exciting since it completely changes the picture about massive stars hosting planets," explains Markus Janson, an astronomer at Stockholm University, Sweden...
[T]he latest discovery demonstrates planets can, in fact, form in such extreme stellar environments. "We have always had a very solar system centric view of what planetary systems are ‘supposed' to look like," MPIA scientist and co-author Matthias Samland points out. "Over the last ten years, the discovery of many planetary systems in surprising and novel configurations has made us widen our historically narrow view. This discovery adds another exciting chapter to this story, this time for massive stars."