Clemson Researcher Discovers Planet Forming

Clemson, SC (WSPA) -- More than a thousand planets have been discovered in our galaxy. But never before have scientists found one while it's actually forming, until now.

"It was really exciting," said Sean Brittain, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson University. "Not often in science you have this prediction of what you should have and then you go and you take the observations. And that's exactly what you see."

They saw evidence of a planet, a gas giant, orbiting a star about 335 light years from Earth.

Brittain led the research.

"This is probably something more like Jupiter, probably a little bit bigger than Jupiter actually. So we're looking at something that's at least three Jupiter masses or bigger," said Brittain.

He and an international team of scientists have been studying the candidate planet and its star for about ten years, using giant telescopes, far from Clemson's campus.

"We've traveled to Chile to collect most of our data," said Brittain. "The star is, you can only see from the southern hemisphere so we need to use telescopes down south of the equator to go look at it."

Brittain says his team realized the extent of what they had found just last year and have now reported the findings to The Astrophysical Journal for other experts and enthusiasts to see.

It's raising the profile for his research and his workplace.

"It helps attract students in because they see the sort of work happening here," said Brittain. "Build collaborations when other scientists see what you're doing."


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