Gas Giants Form Quickly (Artist Concept)
This is an artist's concept of a hypothetical 10-million-year-old star system. The bright blur at the center is a star much like our sun. The other orb in the image is a gas-giant planet like Jupiter. Wisps of white throughout the image represent traces of gas.
Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have found evidence showing that gas-giant planets either form within the first 10 million years of a sun-like star's life, or not at all. The lifespan for sun-like stars is about 10 billion years.
The scientists came to this conclusion after searching for traces of gas around 15 different sun-like stars, most with ages ranging from 3 million to 30 million years. With the help of Spitzer's Infrared Spectrometer instrument, they were able to search for relatively warm gas in the inner regions of these star systems, an area comparable to the zone between Earth and Jupiter in our own solar system. They also used ground-based radio telescopes to search for cooler gas in the outer regions of these systems, an area comparable to the zone around Saturn and beyond.