So astronomers have to switch.
In the universe, astronomers meanwhile have illuminated many special planets. And now researchers are making another strange discovery. The massive extrasolar planet WASP-107b appears to be able to measure itself with the gas giant Jupiter from our solar system, but it is much lighter at the same time. An amazing discovery “has big implications,” says researcher Bjorn Pinicki.
More about the WASP-107b
WASP-107b was discovered around the star WASP-107 in 2017. This is a star located about 212 light years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. The planet orbits its star in a very close orbit; For example, it is at least 16 times closer than its parent star from Earth to our sun. A year on the planet lasts only 5.7 days. For comparison; The closest planet to our sun – Mercury – takes 90 days to complete a circle around the sun. WASP-107b is as large as Jupiter, but much lighter. This means that its density is very limited. These planets – which are massive but limited in mass – are referred to as “superplanets” or “cotton candy planets.”
The researchers participated The new study Bent at low density of WASP-107b. With the help of observations from the WASP-107b, they were able to accurately determine the mass. This leads to an interesting result. For example, it turns out that WASP-107b is 10 times lighter than Jupiter, or about 30 times the mass of Earth.
The team then decided to find out the internal structure of the planet. This led to a surprising discovery: at such a low density, the planet should have a solid core no more than four times the mass of Earth. This means that the thick gas layer surrounding this solid core accounts for about 85 percent of the total mass. In comparison, Neptune – which has a mass comparable to WASP-107b – only has 5 to 15 percent of its total mass in its gas layer.
This means that the giant planet’s nuclear mass is much less than was thought necessary to develop a massive gas envelope around giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn. So this interesting finding indicates that gas giants form more easily than previously thought. “The study covers the basics of how giant planets form and grow,” says Benicke. “It provides concrete evidence that planets with less massive cores could also have a gaseous atmosphere.”
At the same time, the discovery raises many questions. “How could a planet grow up at this low density?” Caroline Beaulette asks. And how did the planet prevent it from disintegrating from its massive layer of gas, especially given the planet’s narrow orbit around its star? Yves Lee, a world-renowned expert on cotton candy planets such as WASP-107b, has several hypotheses. “The most plausible scenario is that the planet forms a great distance from its star,” she explains. “At that time, the temperatures in the environment were low, which allowed the planet to collect a lot of gas. Then the planet moved to its near current location at a later stage – perhaps through interactions with the protoplanetary disk or with other planets.”
The discovery of a second planet in the same galaxy seems to cautiously support this guess. For example, the planet – named WASP-107c – is very far from its parent star; It even takes three years on Earth for a planet to complete one revolution around its parent star. Additionally, WASP-107c is about one-third that of Jupiter. Much more block than the WASP-107b. Finally, WASP-107c appears to have an elliptical orbit around its parent star. “This large aberration indicates a rather turbulent past, where interplanetary interactions lead to large displacements,” says Biaolit. “And that’s exactly what we suspect about the WASP-107b.”
Researchers won’t call it quits yet. Because the plan is to investigate WASP-107b more thoroughly. In addition, researchers hope that they will soon also be able to obtain assistance from the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will likely launch in 2021. We hope that this new telescope will be able to provide a more accurate picture of the composition of the planet’s atmosphere. “Alien exoplanets such as WASP-107b – which we are not familiar with in our solar system – allow us to understand the mechanisms behind planetary formation and the resulting diversity of exoplanets,” said Biaolit. “We are very excited to study it in detail.”
Stay amazed ✨
Get the most beautiful space photos and interesting popular science articles every Friday. Get a free Scientia magazine with 50,000 more.