From W.M. Keck Observatory (US) : “Infant Planet Discovered by University of Hawai’i-Led Team Using Mauna Kea Telescopes” 

W.M. Keck Observatory two ten meter telescopes operated by California Institute of Technology(US) and The University of California(US), at Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii USA, altitude 4,207 m (13,802 ft). Credit: Caltech.

Keck Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics on two 10 meter Keck Observatory telescopes, Maunakea Hawaii USA, altitude 4,207 m (13,802 ft).

Maunakea Observatories Hawai’i (US) altitude 4,213 m (13,822 ft).</a

From W.M. Keck Observatory (US)

October 22, 2021

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A direct image of the planet 2m0437, which lies about 100 times the earth-sun distance from its parent star. the image was taken by ircs on the Subaru elescope on Mauna Kea. the much-brighter host star has been mostly removed, and the four “spikes” are artifacts produced by the optics of the telescope. Credit: Subaru telescope.

NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

One of the youngest planets ever found around a distant infant star has been discovered by an international team of scientists led by The University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa(US) faculty, students, and alumni.

Thousands of planets have been discovered around other stars, but what sets this one apart is that it is newly-formed and can be directly observed. The planet, named 2M0437b, joins a handful of objects advancing our understanding of how planets form and change with time, helping shed new light on the origin of the solar system and Earth.

The in-depth research has been accepted for publication in the MNRAS.

“This serendipitous discovery adds to an elite list of planets that we can directly observe with our telescopes,” explained lead author Eric Gaidos, a professor in the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa Department of Earth Sciences. “By analyzing the light from this planet we can say something about its composition, and perhaps where and how it formed in a long-vanished disk of gas and dust around its host star.”

The researchers estimate that the planet is a few times more massive than Jupiter, and that it formed with its star several million years ago, around the time the main Hawaiian Islands first emerged above the ocean. The planet is so young that it is still hot from the energy released during its formation, with a temperature similar to the lava erupting from Kīlauea Volcano.

Key Mauna Kea Telescopes

In 2018, 2M0437b was first seen with the Subaru Telescope on Maunakea by Institute for Astronomy University of Hawai’i (US) (IfA) visiting researcher Teruyuki Hirano. For the past several years, it has been studied carefully utilizing other telescopes on the Mauna.

Gaidos and his collaborators used W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea to monitor the position of the host star as it moved across the sky. With Keck Observatory’s Near-Infrared Camera, second generation (NIRC2) [below] in combination with the Keck II telescope’s adaptive optics system [above], the team was able to verify that planet 2M0437b was truly a companion to the star, and not a more distant object. The observations required three years because the star moves slowly across the sky.

“The exquisite data from the Keck Observatory allowed us to confirm that the faint neighbor is moving through space along with its star, and thus is a true companion,” explained Dr. Adam Kraus, a professor in the Department of Astronomy at The University of Texas-Austin (US) and co-author on the paper. “Eventually, we might even be able to measure its orbital motion around the star.”

The planet and its parent star lie in a stellar “nursery” called the Taurus Cloud. 2M0437b is on a much wider orbit than the planets in the solar system; its current separation is about 100 times the Earth-Sun distance, making it easier to observe. However, sophisticated adaptive optics are still needed to compensate for the image distortion caused by Earth’s atmosphere.

“Two of the world’s largest telescopes, adaptive optics technology, and Mauna Kea’s clear skies were all needed to make this discovery,” said co-author Michael Liu, an astronomer at IfA. “We are all looking forward to more such discoveries, and more detailed studies of such planets with the technologies and telescopes of the future.”

Future Research Potential

Gathering more in-depth research about the newly-discovered planet may not be too far away. “Observations with space telescopes such as NASA’s Hubble and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope could identify gases in its atmosphere and reveal whether the planet has a moon-forming disk,” Gaidos added.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US)/European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) Hubble Space Telescope

National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA)/European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA) Webb Infrared Space Telescope(US) James Webb Space Telescope annotated. Scheduled for launch in October 2021 delayed to December 2021.

The star that 2M0437b orbits is too faint to be seen with the unaided eye, but currently from Hawaiʻi, the young planet and other infant stars in the Taurus Cloud are almost directly overhead in the pre-dawn hours, north of the bright star Hokuʻula (Aldeberan) and east of the Makaliʻi (Pleiades) star cluster.

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The W. M. Keck Observatory (US) operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.

Keck UCal


Keck 1

HIRES – The largest and most mechanically complex of the Keck’s main instruments, the High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer breaks up incoming starlight into its component colors to measure the precise intensity of each of thousands of color channels. Its spectral capabilities have resulted in many breakthrough discoveries, such as the detection of planets outside our solar system and direct evidence for a model of the Big Bang theory.

Keck High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES), at the Keck I telescope.[/caption]height=”375″ class=”size-full wp-image-32389″ /> Keck High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES), at the Keck I telescope.

LRIS – The Low Resolution Imaging Spectrograph is a faint-light instrument capable of taking spectra and images of the most distant known objects in the universe. The instrument is equipped with a red arm and a blue arm to explore stellar populations of distant galaxies, active galactic nuclei, galactic clusters, and quasars.

UCO Keck LRIS on Keck 1.

VISIBLE BAND (0.3-1.0 Micron)

MOSFIRE – The Multi-Object Spectrograph for Infrared Exploration gathers thousands of spectra from objects spanning a variety of distances, environments and physical conditions. What makes this huge, vacuum-cryogenic instrument unique is its ability to select up to 46 individual objects in the field of view and then record the infrared spectrum of all 46 objects simultaneously. When a new field is selected, a robotic mechanism inside the vacuum chamber reconfigures the distribution of tiny slits in the focal plane in under six minutes. Eight years in the making with First Light in 2012, MOSFIRE’s early performance results range from the discovery of ultra-cool, nearby substellar mass objects, to the detection of oxygen in young galaxies only 2 billion years after the Big Bang.

Keck/MOSFIRE on Keck 1, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA.

OSIRIS – The OH-Suppressing Infrared Imaging Spectrograph is a near-infrared spectrograph for use with the Keck I adaptive optics system. OSIRIS takes spectra in a small field of view to provide a series of images at different wavelengths. The instrument allows astronomers to ignore wavelengths where the Earth’s atmosphere shines brightly due to emission from OH (hydroxl) molecules, thus allowing the detection of objects 10 times fainter than previously available.
Keck OSIRIS on Keck 1

Keck 2

DEIMOS – The Deep Extragalactic Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph is the most advanced optical spectrograph in the world, capable of gathering spectra from 130 galaxies or more in a single exposure. In ‘Mega Mask’ mode, DEIMOS can take spectra of more than 1,200 objects at once, using a special narrow-band filter.

[ Keck/DEIMOS on Keck 2.

NIRSPEC – The Near Infrared Spectrometer studies very high redshift radio galaxies, the motions and types of stars located near the Galactic Center, the nature of brown dwarfs, the nuclear regions of dusty starburst galaxies, active galactic nuclei, interstellar chemistry, stellar physics, and solar-system science.

NIRSPEC on Keck 2.

ESI – The Echellette Spectrograph and Imager captures high-resolution spectra of very faint galaxies and quasars ranging from the blue to the infrared in a single exposure. It is a multimode instrument that allows users to switch among three modes during a night. It has produced some of the best non-AO images at the Observatory.

KECK Echellette Spectrograph and Imager (ESI)

KCWI – The Keck Cosmic Web Imager is designed to provide visible band, integral field spectroscopy with moderate to high spectral resolution, various fields of view and image resolution formats and excellent sky-subtraction. The astronomical seeing and large aperture of the telescope enables studies of the connection between galaxies and the gas in their dark matter halos, stellar relics, star clusters and lensed galaxies.

Keck Cosmic Web Imager on Keck 2 schematic.

Keck Cosmic Web Imager on Keck 2.

NEAR-INFRARED (1-5 Micron)

ADAPTIVE OPTICS – Adaptive optics senses and compensates for the atmospheric distortions of incoming starlight up to 1,000 times per second. This results in an improvement in image quality on fairly bright astronomical targets by a factor 10 to 20.

LASER GUIDE STAR ADAPTIVE OPTICS [pictured above] – The Keck Laser Guide Star expands the range of available targets for study with both the Keck I and Keck II adaptive optics systems. They use sodium lasers to excite sodium atoms that naturally exist in the atmosphere 90 km (55 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The laser creates an “artificial star” that allows the Keck adaptive optics system to observe 70-80 percent of the targets in the sky, compared to the 1 percent accessible without the laser.

NIRC-2/AO – The second generation Near Infrared Camera works with the Keck Adaptive Optics system to produce the highest-resolution ground-based images and spectroscopy in the 1-5 micron range. Typical programs include mapping surface features on solar system bodies, searching for planets around other stars, and analyzing the morphology of remote galaxies.

Keck NIRC2 Camera on Keck 2
The Near Infrared Echellette Spectrograph (NIRES) is a prism cross-dispersed near-infrared spectrograph built at the California Institute of Technology by a team led by Chief Instrument Scientist Keith Matthews and Prof. Tom Soifer. Commissioned in 2018, NIRES covers a large wavelength range at moderate spectral resolution for use on the Keck II telescope and observes extremely faint red objects found with the Spitzer and WISE infrared space telescopes, as well as brown dwarfs, high-redshift galaxies, and quasars.

Keck Near-Infrared Echellette Spectrometer on Keck 2

Future Instrumentation

KCRM – The Keck Cosmic Reionization Mapper will complete the Keck Cosmic Web Imager (KCWI), the world’s most capable spectroscopic imager. The design for KCWI includes two separate channels to detect light in the blue and the red portions of the visible wavelength spectrum. KCWI-Blue was commissioned and started routine science observations in September 2017. The red channel of KCWI is KCRM; a powerful addition that will open a window for new discoveries at high redshifts.

KCRM – Keck Cosmic Reionization Mapper KCRM on Keck 2.

KPF – The Keck Planet Finder (KPF) will be the most advanced spectrometer of its kind in the world. The instrument is a fiber-fed high-resolution, two-channel cross-dispersed echelle spectrometer for the visible wavelengths and is designed for the Keck II telescope. KPF allows precise measurements of the mass-density relationship in Earth-like exoplanets, which will help astronomers identify planets around other stars that are capable of supporting life.

KPF Keck Planet Finder on Keck 2