A giant planet is orbiting a tiny star and it has experts confused

Brittany A. Roston - Oct 31, 2017
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A giant planet is orbiting a tiny star and it has experts confused

Researchers have disclosed the discovery of a giant planet that is orbiting a comparatively tiny star, an unusual pairing that contradicts what scientists previously thought was possible. The planet is called NGTS-1b, and it is the largest planet, again comparatively speaking, to be orbiting such a small companion star, revealing that the pairing is indeed possible. The discovery was made in part using the Next-Generation Transit Survey facility.

The discovery was recently detailed by the University of Warwick, which had the leading role in this discovery. Astronomers had previously believed it to be impossible for a big planet to orbit such a comparatively small star, meaning this discovery is challenging what is known about the universe. To help put it in perspective, researchers say the planet NGTS-1b is the size of Jupiter, whereas its star is half the size of our own sun.

This is the first time a duo with this size contrast have been discovered, making it a monumental find. The planet is located about 600 light-years from our planet, and it raises new questions about the formation of planets and how one could form with such a small star.

Though the planet is the size of Jupiter, researchers say it has 20-percent less mass. It is located very, very close to its companion star, the equivalent of 3-percent of the distance between Earth and the Sun. For this reason, the planet’s orbit is only 2.6 days long and a year for this planet is only 2.5 days in duration. Because of this close proximity, the planet is also very hot with a temperature of around 986 degrees.

Talking about the discovery, the research’s lead author Dr. Daniel Bayliss said:

The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us – such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars. This is the first exoplanet we have found with our new NGTS facility and we are already challenging the received wisdom of how planets form. Our challenge is to now find out how common these types of planets are in the Galaxy, and with the new NGTS facility we are well-placed to do just that.

SOURCE: University of Warwick


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