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With a diameter of around 143,000 kilometres and a mass 300 times that of the Earth, Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. Scientists have debated for decades how such giants formed. Now, astrophysicists of Universities of Bern and Zürich and of ETH Zürich, amongst which are ERC grantees Yann Alibert and Maria Schönbächler, proposed a solution to this puzzle. The research results, published recently in the magazine Nature Astronomy, provide crucial hints to long-standing questions about the formation of other planets in the solar system and beyond.
An international research team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR, Bonn, Germany) used a collection of large radio and optical telescopes to investigate a newly discovered pulsar, and its white dwarf companion. The observations revealed a system with unusual properties, which weighs twice as much as the Sun, making it the most massive neutron star to date. These findings partly result from the “BEACON” project led by ERC Starting grantee Dr Paulo Freire, and agree with Einstein’s theory on general relativity. They will be published in tomorrow’s issue of Science, April 26, 2013.