The Planet from Another Galaxy Shedding Light on Our Solar System


star HIP 13044 and, its planet HIP 13044 bPhoto: ESO/L. Calçada, used with permissionThe star HIP 13044 and, on the bottom right, its planet HIP 13044 b.

HIP 13044 b is gaining fame as a newly discovered planet from another galaxy. This great discovery was made by European scientists with the European Southern Observatory’s 2.2 meter telescope on La Silla, a mountain in Chile. Another important aspect of this discovery is that this planet HIP 13044b orbits its host star every 16 days at an average distance of nearly 11 million miles.

ESO/MPG telescopePhoto: ESO/H.H.Heyer, used with permissionThe 2.2 m ESO/MPG telescope at ESO’s La Silla observatory,Chile.

This giant planet, which is about 20% larger than Jupiter, was found some 2,200 light-years from Earth, using the radical-velocity method. It is said to have originated around a Metal-Poor Star of extragalactic origin. Studies prove that this host star HIP 13044 has passed its red-giant phase and is now firmly on the path to shrinking.

Wide-field image centred on the exoplanet HIP 13044 bPhoto: Davide De Martin, used with permissionWide-field image centred on the exoplanet HIP 13044 b

Johny Setaiwan from the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy(MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, has led the SERaM Project since 2003 with the goal to detect planets around young stars and sub stellar companies around evolved giant stars. He says: “These planets, commonly known as ‘Exoplanets’, are of prime importance to understand the birth and evolution (the fate) of our solar system.”

Artist's conception of the spiral structure of the Milky Way with two major stellar arms and a barPhoto: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. HurtArtist’s conception of the spiral structure of the Milky Way with two major stellar arms and a bar

Our sun is presently in the ‘main sequence phase’ of stellar life, whereas the new planet’s host star HIP 13044 is in a very last stage of stellar evolution. So, predictions can be made about the fate of the planets in our own solar system in the next 5 billion years, the time when the sun would become a red giant star. However, scientists need data points to reach more solid predictions.

Life-cycle of the Sun;Photo: Oliverbeatson Life-cycle of the Sun

Scientists have been working since the mid-1990s, and round about 500 exoplanets have been found. But they were all formed in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. For the first time ever, HIP 13044b was found in a stream of vagrant stars that loop around the Milky Way. According to Johny Setiawan, study leader, this means: “It is also said that this planet was likely formed when its host star HIP 13044 was not yet a part of the Milky Way. It has traveled with the star all this time.”

Setiawan adds: ” Now we have this finding, and it suggests maybe there are other mechanisms of planet formation around metal-poor stars that we don’t know about.”