Saturday, 10 June 2017

Newly Detected Giant Planet Is 'Hotter Than Most Stars'

A lot of us are gearing up for summer weather, but if you were living on the newly discovered planet designated KELT-9b, no amount of sun protection products would be able to help you.

Astronomers at Ohio State and Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University have found the hottest-ever planet, whose surface temperature ― at 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit ― is more scorching than most stars.

Located 650 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus, and almost twice the size of our own giant Jupiter, KELT-9b orbits around its parent sun, KELT-9, in a “yearly” circuit that takes place every 1.5 days.

“It’s a gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense, because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon. And because it is tidally locked to its star ― as the Moon is to Earth ― the day side of the planet is perpetually bombarded by stellar radiation, and as a result is so hot that molecules, such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can’t form there,” according to The Ohio State University.

“It’s a planet by any of the typical definitions based on mass, but its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we’ve ever seen just because of the temperature of its day side,” said Scott Gaudi, OSU astronomy professor and co-leader of the discovery.

KELT stands for Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, which refers to two small robotic telescopes ― in Arizona and South Africa ― that scan the night sky, looking at 5 million stars. Researchers look for stars whose light becomes dimmer at regular intervals. This dimming effect is a possible indication of a planet crossing the star.

These KELT telescopes were recently used to confirm another exoplanet that has the density of Styrofoam.

KELT-9b’s future isn’t so hot, despite its extreme heat.

“KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet,” Keivan Stassun, a Vanderbilt professor of physics and astronomy, said in a statement. “Or, if gas giant planets like KELT-9b possess solid rocky cores as some theories suggest, the planet may be boiled down to a barren rock, like Mercury.”

The discovery of this exoplanet is presented in the scientific journal Nature.

KELT-9b’s orbit is so close to its sun that, if the star eventually expands, it will consume the planet.

“KELT-9 will swell to become a red giant star in about a billion years,” said Stassun, one of the co-directors of this study. “The long-term prospects for life, or real estate for that matter, on KELT-9b are not looking good.”

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