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Mysterious Pink Planet Baffles Scientists

Mysterious Pink Planet Baffles Scientists

Mysterious Pink Planet Baffles Scientists
Danielle de Wolfe
12 August 2013

If Earth is the blue planet, then we may have found its girly equivalent.

An international team of astronomers has imaged a giant planet which is pink in colour. If this wasn't strange enough, its size and position is challenging the theoretical ideas scientists have of the the way that giant planets form.

The snappily-named GJ 504, 57 light years away from our solar system (see image below), is four times the mass of Jupiter, but orbits a Sun-like star at nearly nine times the distance Jupiter does. The widely held model for gas giant formation - named 'core-accretion' is that they start with a core produced by collisions between asteroids and comets; once this core is big enough, its gravitational pull attracts gas to form a planet - however, this model normally only holds up to a distance of 30 times Earth's average distance from the Sun - the pink planet is 43.5 times the distance.

Astrophysicist Markus Janson stated, "This is among the hardest planets to explain in a traditional planet-formation framework. Its discovery implies that we need to seriously consider alternative formation theories, or perhaps to reassess some of the basic assumptions in the core-accretion theory."

Its young age - 160 million years - apparently explains its fuschia colour: team member Michael McElwain explained, "If we could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta. Our near-infrared camera reveals that its colour is much more blue than other imaged planets, which may indicate that its atmosphere has fewer clouds."

So an entity that likes the colour pink and is very difficult to understand. We're saying nothing.


(Images: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger)