500 light-years away from us, there is a planetary system that is at odds with existing theories about the origin of planets around a young star.
The CI Tau star is only 2 million years old, but has already collected four large gas planets.
Astronomers from the University of Cambridge in Great Britain viewed the planetary system with the ALMA telescope. It consists of 66 antennas that together can absorb the weak radiation from cold objects in the universe.
Three planets challenge the theories
The gas planets around the star CI Tau are each surprising in itself. For example, the distance from the inner to the outer alone is greater than with any other known planetary system.
A planet 10 times as heavy as Jupiter describes an orbit just 60 million kilometers from CI Tau. Such a gas giant should not be able to form so close to its star.
The star is 2 million years old, but already has planets the size of Saturn. They should never have been able to attract so much gas.
Too far away
The outer gas giant is about 60 billion kilometers from its star. According to the theories, a gas planet the size of Saturn cannot emerge at that enormous distance.
Hot planet surprises scientists
The inner planet of CI Tau in particular amazes astronomers.
It is a so-called hot Jupiter planet, which is close to its star and has a very short orbit. Hot Jupiter planets are usually hundreds of millions of years old.
So far the explanation for the position of the gas giants was that they are not formed around the star, but that they are exoplanets that have been captured by the star's gravity.
However, this theory will be put at risk if you consider the low age of CI Tau.
Shrouded in mists
The two outer gas planets are also a mystery: they are both about the same size as Saturn, but should not be as far in their development.
Moreover, the outer planet is far from its star, in a place where large planets should not be able to form at all.
The planets may have influenced each other with their gravity, bringing the hot Jupiter planet closer to the star and moving the two outer ones just farther away, but the theories about the formation of gas planets may need to be revised.