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Session 79 - Special Objects in the Galaxy.
Oral session, Thursday, June 11
NICMOS images made with the Hubble Space Telescope show what appears to be a giant protoplanet which has been ejected from the vicinity of a protostar. The data resolve the protostar to show a protobinary (0.3'' = 45 AU separation) surrounded by reflection nebulosity. A long narrow filament (0.5'' wide) extends from the protobinary to an unresolved low-luminosity object. The bright filament, which appears to connect the protobinary and candidate protoplanet, may be an illumination channel through the dusty envelope/disk, created by the the object's passage. Based on the filament width and typical turbulent velocity the ejection time scale is 400 -- 1200 years. The chance of a random background star located at the end of the filament is estimated to be roughly 1 -- 2% based on local NIR star count measurements. The available near-infrared photometry gives an effective temperature near 1600 K. The observed flux is consistent with a young Jupiter-mass giant planet at the distance of Taurus. The association with a protobinary ( 3 by 10^5 yr) suggests we have detected a planet during earliest phases of planetary system formation, during the epoch when a gaseous cloud core collapses to form a protostar.
Program listing for Thursday