Huge planet orbiting tiny star challenges formation theory

The discovery of a huge planet orbiting a relatively small star is challenging current theories of planet formation.
By Ed Mason | Nov 03, 2017
An international group of astronomers has found the largest planet compared to its companion star ever discovered in the universe.

Planet NGTS-1b is a gas giant the size of Jupiter located 600 light-years away from Earth. It orbits an M-dwarf star with a radius and mass half that of the Sun.

The existence of such a giant planet orbiting a relatively small star is challenging theories about how planets are formed.

The researchers discovered the planet using the state-of-the-art Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) designed to spot transiting planets on bright stars. The NGTS facility, which is located at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile, is run by the Universities of Warwick, Leicester, Cambridge, Queen's University Belfast, Observatoire de Genve, DLR Berlin, and Universidad de Chile.

"The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars," said lead author Dr. Danial Bayliss of the University of Warwick's Astronomy and Astrophysics Group, in a statement. "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."

The research will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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