Astronomers Discover Youngest Fully Formed Exoplanet Ever Detected

Posted on June 27, 2016

Astronomers using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope have discovered the youngest fully formed exoplanet detected so far. It was detected using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope and its extended K2 mission in combination with the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Above is an artist's concept of K2-33b and its star.

Astronomers say K2-33b is just 5 to 10 million years old. The planet is slightly bigger than Neptune. It is in a very tight or close orbit around its star. A complete orbit around the star takes K2-33b just five days. K2-33b is early 10 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun.

Trevor David of Caltech in Pasadena and lead author of the research published in Nature, says in a statement, "Our Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old. By comparison, the planet K2-33b is very young. You might think of it as an infant."

K2-33b was discovered when K2 detected a periodic dimming of the light emitted by the planet's host star. This is considered a strong signal that an orbiting planet is regularly passing in front of the star and blocking the light from the star. This animation shows the young star and its infant plant. Take a look:

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