The “super puff” exoplanet is as large as Jupiter, but 10 times lighter, confusing astronomers –

The “super puff” exoplanet is as large as Jupiter, but 10 times lighter, confusing astronomers

About 212 light years from Earth, a gas giant light to be named the “super-puff” or “cotton candy” planet, is extremely close to its host star. Exoplanet So light, it is left to astronomers what we already know about how gas giants are formed.

This super puff ExoplanetKnown as WASP-107b, it is about the same size as Jupiter, but only about one-tenth the mass – or about 30 times more massive than Earth. According to a new study published on Monday in The Astronomical Journal, its core mass is considerably smaller than that required by astronomers to build a gas giant planet like Jupiter and Saturn.

The discovery made by Ph.D. Caroline Piulet, a student under the supervision of Professor Björn Beneke at the University of Montreal, indicates that gas giants are more easily formed than before.

“This study pushes the boundaries of our theoretical understanding of how giant-sized planets form. WASP-107b is one of the outgoing planets out there, and we need a creative solution to explain that these small cores How can you build your huge gas envelope, ”coauthor Eve Lee said in a statement.

WASP-107b is not a new discovery – astronomers first detected it in 2017 in the constellation Virgo. The planet is very close to its star, 16 times closer than Earth, completes one orbit every 5.7 days.

WASP-107b is one of the least dense exoplanet scientists. He has nicknamed similar planets – gas giants with a density of cotton candy – super-puffs.

Artistic presentation of the exoplanet WASP-107b and its star, WASP-107. Some light currents of the star through the extended gas layer of the exoplanet.

ESA / Hübel, NASA, m. Cornesar

To find the astonishing mass of the planet, astronomers studied observations received at the Keek Observatory in Hawaii. They used a technique called the radial velocity method, which studies the staggering speed of a planet’s star due to the gravitational pull of a planet, so that mass can be calculated.

Scientists were surprised to conclude that WASP-107b has a mass of solid core that is no more than four times that of Earth, meaning that more than 85% of its mass stems from the gaseous layer surrounding the core. It has a dramatically different breakdown from Neptune, which has a similar mass but only 5% to 15% of it within its gas layer.

Based on their knowledge of Jupiter and Saturn, scientists had previously assumed that a solid core would be required at least 10 times the Earth’s mass to obtain enough gas to form a gas giant planet. WASP-107b challenges that theory.

“This work addresses the foundation of how giant planets can grow and evolve,” Benecke said. “This provides solid evidence that large-scale accretion of the gas envelope can be triggered for cores that were thought to be much less massive.”

Lee stated that, “The most plausible scenario is that the planet is formed far away from the star, where the gas in the disc is cold enough that gas emissions can occur very quickly. The planet was later able to move to its current position , Either. Through a disc or through interactions with other planets in the system. “

While studying the planet, the team stumbled upon another in the same system WASP-107c. It has a mass that is about a third of Jupiter and takes three years to orbit its host star once.

The elliptical orbit of the planet suggests that astronomers’ new hypothesis is on the right track.

“WASP-107c has, in some cases, retained the memory of what happened in its system,” Piulet said. “Its large eccentricity hints at a chaotic past, with interactions between planets that can cause significant displacement, such as those suspected for WASP-107b.”

The team hopes to continue studying the strange planet with the launch James Webb Space Telescope this year.


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