Exoplanets in the Beehive

Just a few weeks ago I showed you a picture of a planet in the Beehive, Praesepe or M44. That was Mars in a conjunction with M44. Mars was as close as a hundred million kilometers in our own solar system, M44 about 580 light years further up in the galaxy. But today real exoplanets around two of the stars in the Beehive was found.

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA-funded astronomers have, for the first time, spotted planets orbiting sun-like stars in a crowded cluster of stars. The findings offer the best evidence yet that planets can sprout up in dense stellar environments. Although the newfound planets are not habitable, their skies would be starrier than what we see from Earth. The starry-skied planets are two so-called hot Jupiters, which are massive, gaseous orbs that are boiling hot because they orbit tightly around their parent stars. Each hot Jupiter circles a different sun-like star in the Beehive Cluster, also called the Praesepe, a collection of roughly 1,000 stars that appear to be swarming around a common center. The Beehive is an open cluster, or a grouping of stars born at about the same time and out of the same giant cloud of material. The stars therefore share a similar chemical composition. Unlike the majority of stars, which spread out shortly after birth, these young stars remain loosely bound together by mutual gravitational attraction. … (JPL/NASA)

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