Giant Planet Found Orbiting Tiny Star in Bizarre Combination

Tuesday, 31 October 2017 - 6:52PM
Space
Astronomy
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 - 6:52PM
Giant Planet Found Orbiting Tiny Star in Bizarre Combination
University of Warwick/Mark Garlick
While stars are, by default, much bigger than planets, it was still generally accepted that planets of a certain size can't form around the smaller stars in our universe. Until now, at least.

Scientists have been baffled by the discovery of a large planet the size of Jupiter that's orbiting a tiny Red Dwarf star. While this isn't the first time that a so-called "hot Jupiter" large gaseous planet has been seen in orbit around a red dwarf, the proportions here are so imbalanced that it had previously been thought to be impossible.

The planet in question, NGTS-1b, is about 600 light years away from Earth, and demonstrates some intriguing behavior. Not only is it so big as to be seemingly impossible, it also orbits its star in an incredibly tight loop, whizzing around its entire cycle in just 2.6 Earth days, making for a very odd couple between the two of them.

According to Daniel Bayliss of the University of Warwick, lead author on the new paper detailing the specifics of NGTS-1b:

Opening quote
"The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us - such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars. 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."
Closing quote


By all rights, considering the minuscule size of the sim M-dwarf class star that NGTS-1b orbits, there shouldn't have been enough particles of debris orbiting the star to make a planet of this large size.

Scientists aren't entirely sure how any planet could form this closely to a star without being swallowed up by its gravitational force, but this particular planet has really proven to be unique by also forming to be so huge that it could very well almost have been a star itself.




As odd as it may sound to have two similarly sized objects next to each other, there is precedent for this kind of thing happening, albeit on a lunar, rather than planetary scale. Earth's own moon (well, the big one anyway) is something of an anomaly compared with mush of what we've seen this far elsewhere - not many other planets have a lunar body that's quite so huge, making our weird relationship with our moon, and its effects on our tides and seasons, somewhat rare in the larger scheme of things.

Perhaps, then, it's worth assuming that for all we think we know the rules that govern the universe, we almost certainly have large gaps in our current understanding. Just because something hasn't been observed yet, somewhere out in the night's sky, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Who knows? If there's a planet that rains sunscreen out there somewhere, maybe there's a world made out of chocolate or a star that glows all the colors of the rainbow. One thing is certain: plenty of new, bizarre discoveries await us, just waiting for us to point a telescope in the right direction and see something amazing.
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