Planets forming in Pleiades star cluster: astronomers


New York : Planets like Earth, Mars or Venus appear to be forming or to have recently formed around a star in the Pleiades star cluster, the result of “monster collisions” of planets or planetary embryos.

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Astronomers using the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and the Spitzer Space Telescope report these findings in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

“This is the first clear evidence for planet formation in the Pleiades, and the results we are presenting may well be the first observational evidence that terrestrial planets like those in our solar system are quite common,” said Joseph Rhee, lead author of the study.

The Pleiades star cluster — also known as the “seven sisters” — in the constellation Taurus, is well known in many cultures.

In Greek literature, it is named for the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, who were placed by Zeus among the stars in Greek mythology and is cited in the Bible. The automaker Subaru’s name is the Japanese word for the Pleiades, Rhee said. In Indian literature, the cluster is often called the seven sages.

The Pleiades is probably the best-known star cluster and the most striking to the naked eye. “You’ve seen it many times, and it’s now easily visible in the evening sky,” said the study’s co-author Benjamin Zuckerman.

Although referred to as the “seven sisters”, “the cluster actually contains some 1,400 stars”, said Inseok Song, another co-author.

Located about 400 light-years away, the Pleiades is one of the closest star clusters to Earth.