A giant exoplanet, or planet located outside of our solar system, was discovered orbiting b Centauri, a stellar pair located 325 light-years from Earth in the Centaurus constellation. Astronomers were able to capture an image of the planet using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. The giant planet, which is 10 times as massive as Jupiter (and one of the most massive planets ever found), astronomically young at 15 million years old, orbits the pair of stars at 100 times the distance between Jupiter and the sun. The stellar pair is also more than three times as hot as our sun. “B-type stars are generally considered quite destructive and dangerous environments, so it was believed that it should be exceedingly difficult to form large planets around them,” Markus Janson, a professor of astronomy at Stockholm University, Sweden, said in a statement.
The discovered planet, dubbed b Centauri b, remains at such a large distance from its stars that this incredibly wide orbit probably allows the planet to survive. “It’s a harsh environment, dominated by extreme radiation, where everything is on a gigantic scale: the stars are bigger, the planet is bigger, the distances are bigger,” Gayathri Viswanath, a doctoral student at Stockholm University appreciated. The European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope will come online later this decade, and its observational capabilities will allow scientists to begin understanding how this planet formed.