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Session 79 - Special Objects in the Galaxy.
Oral session, Thursday, June 11

[79.04] A Candidate Protoplanet in the Taurus Molecular Cloud

S. Terebey (Extrasolar Research Corp.), D. Van Buren (Jet Propulsion Lab), T. Hancock (Extrasolar Research Corp.), D. L. Padgett, M. Brundage (Jet Propulsion Lab)

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.

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Program listing for Thursday