When it comes to planets that defy astronomers’ expectations, it seems like the Universe never runs out of them. Nature itself is an everlasting factory of planets, stars, galaxies, and other cosmic objects. Until the day when technology will be so evolved that we’ll be able to travel to such places, scientists can still analyze them in different ways.
SciTechDaily writes about a newfound planet by astronomers at Université de Montréal that is as big as Jupiter but ten times lighter. As we all know, our solar system’s biggest planet is mostly made of gases instead of solid materials like Earth or Mars.
WASP-107b is the planet in question, and it was discovered by Ph.D. student Caroline Piaulet of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets from UdeM’s (iREx). The object is an exoplanet that revolves around an orange dwarf star located 211 light-years away in the Virgo constellation.
Professor Björn Benneke, a member of the research team of UdeM, declared:
This work addresses the very foundations of how giant planets can form and grow,
It provides concrete proof that massive accretion of a gas envelope can be triggered for cores that are much less massive than previously thought.
WASP-107b is so least dense and light that astrophysics classify it as a ‘super-puff’ or ‘cotton-candy’ planet. For a planet as big as Jupiter, it’s also intriguing that WASP-107b is located 16 times closer to its host star than the Earth is to the Sun.
The research team gathered observations of WASP-107b obtained by the Keck Observatory in Hawai’i, and they had to use the radial velocity method for determining the planet’s mass.
Eve Lee, who is a McGill University professor and iREx member and also a world-renowned expert when it comes to “super-puff” planets, tried to explain the unusual existence of WASP-107b:
For WASP-107b, the most plausible scenario is that the planet formed far away from the star, where the gas in the disc is cold enough that gas accretion can occur very quickly,
The planet was later able to migrate to its current position, either through interactions with the disc or with other planets in the system.
The new discovery was published in The Astronomical Journal, and scientists from the US, Canada, Germany, and Japan were also involved.