October 4, 2023

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Discover a massive, cloud-like, cotton-candy planet: ScienceAlert

Discover a massive, cloud-like, cotton-candy planet: ScienceAlert

The galaxy can throw some strange curveballs, but an exoplanet discovered 1,232 light-years away is one of the most unusual yet.

It’s WASP-193b, and although it’s about 50 percent more massive than Jupiter, it’s so light and fluffy that its overall density is comparable to that of cotton candy. It is just a hair over 1% of the Earth’s density. It’s absolute Dandelion puff ball From a scientist…if a dandelion puff ball could be a planet.

Although unheard of, rare, exoplanets like WASP-193b could help us. Better understanding of planetary evolutionAccording to an international team led by an astronomer Khaled Barqawi from the University of Liege in Belgium.

A paper describing the discovery has been accepted for publication and is available at arXiv prepress server.

An artist’s impression of a bloated world. (NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, J. Olmsted/STScI)

Looking at all the weird and wonderful worlds out there not only allows us to put our own solar system in context but provides us with a window into how planetary systems formed and evolved.

Gas giants near their stars are an excellent tool for this because our understanding of planet formation means that they had to form elsewhere and migrate inward. In addition, the irradiation from the star also meant that many of these worlds were shrinking.

WASP-193b is an exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star named WASP-193. It has a mass of 1.1 times that of the Sun and a radius of 1.2 times that of the Sun, and it is very close to the Sun in temperature and age. But WASP-193b orbits its star more closely than any of the planets in the Solar System: it orbits once every 6.25 days.

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Studying how a star’s light changes as an exoplanet orbits it allowed Barkawi and his colleagues to calculate the world. radius And Mass. Its radius is about 1.46 times the radius of Jupiter. But in comparison, its mass is incredibly small: only 0.139 times that of Jupiter.

From these characteristics, the researchers derived the exoplanet’s density: 0.059 grams per cubic centimeter. By comparison, the Earth’s density is 5.51 grams per cubic centimeter. Jupiter density is 1.33 grams per cubic centimeter, which makes sense – lots of clouds happen. The density of cotton candy 0.05 grams per cubic centimeter.

Animation showing how radial velocity is measured, which is one of the ways a planet can affect the light of its star. (Alisa Ubertas/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Very few other worlds of similar density have been found, but it does provide some clues as to how such thin worlds might have appeared. Being close to a star can heat up the atmosphere, causing it to puff up, especially if that atmosphere is prevalent. hydrogen and helium.

But such a world will only look like WASP-193b for a few tens of millions of years or so, when the star is younger and hotter; In addition, the heat and winds from the star can strip such a fragile atmosphere very quickly.

So this poses some problems. The star is believed to be up to 6 billion years old; While there may be some mechanism for blowing internal heat into WASP-193b’s atmosphere, the observed properties of the exoplanets cannot be recreated using complex planetary evolution models.

The good news is that WASP-193b makes an excellent candidate for follow-up studies to see what its atmosphere is made of. This is one of the tasks The James Webb Space Telescope was designed to; just one transit controlIt could provide insights that explain how such a strange, fluffy ancient world could exist in the universe, the team says.

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The team’s research has been accepted for publication and is available at arXiv.