Giant planet found orbiting small star

Unusual discovery challenges current theories regarding planet formation.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Nov 02, 2017
A Jupiter-sized gas giant planet has been discovered orbiting a star half the size and mass of our Sun, the largest planet ever in comparison to its parent star.

Located about 600 light years away and titled NGTS-1b, the planet was found by an international team of scientists using the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), an array of robotic telescopes with a mission of searching for transiting Neptune-sized planets and super Earths around bright stars.

NGTS is located at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Paranal Observatory in Chile.

Over the last few months, scientists monitored various areas of the sky using NGTS' red-sensitive cameras. Periodic dips in the light of this star every 2.6 days signaled the presence of an orbiting planet.

Through measuring the degree the star "wobbles" when the planet passes in front of it, they were able to calculate the planet's size, position, and mass.

The unusual planet is a hot Jupiter about 20 percent less massive than Jupiter in our solar system that orbits its star every 2.6 days.

Its distance from the star is just three percent that of the distance between the Sun and the Earth, and its average temperature is approximately 530 degrees Celsius or 800 degrees Kelvin.

"The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us--such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars," said Daniel Bayliss, lead author of a paper on the findings published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"This is the first exoplanet we have found with our new NGTS facility, and we are already challenging the received wisdom of how planets form. Our challenge is to now find out how common these types of planets are in the galaxy, and with the new NGTS facility, we are well-placed to do just that."

A red M-dwarf, the parent star is the most common type in the universe. This finding could indicate other red dwarf stars also have giant planets in close orbits, the researchers believe.

"NGTS-1b was difficult to find, despite being a monster of a planet, because its parent star is faint and small," said NGTS leader Peter Wheatley of the University of Warwick.

"Small stars are actually the most common in the universe, so it is possible there are many of these giant planets waiting to be found."

 

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