Science

Giant Planet is Found Orbiting a Tiny Star in a Bizarre Combination

Giant Planet is Found Orbiting a Tiny Star in a Bizarre Combination

It was previously believed that, whilst M-dwarf stars are capable of gathering the materials needed to produce rocky worlds, they lacked the gravitational clout to draw in enough material to allow for the formation of massive Jovian planets. Until now, at least.

The existence of the gassy giant challenges long-standing theories that such a big planet - about the size of Jupiter - can not be formed around a star so small.

The planet was discovered using highly advanced Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) and is about 600 light years away from Earth. It is very close to its star - just three percent of the distance between Earth and the Sun - and orbits the star every 2.6 days, meaning a year on NGTS-1b lasts two and a half days.

"Despite being a monster of a planet, NGTS-1b was hard to find because its parent star is so small and faint", Peter Wheatley, professor at the University of Warwick, said in a news release. Gas giants aren't exactly unusual or uncommon - heck, we've got four of them in our Solar System - but NGTS-1b is unusual because its star is half the mass of the Sun. "I'm looking forward to seeing what other kinds of exciting new planets we can turn up".

NGTS is situated at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in the heart of the Atacama Desert, Chile, but is one of very few facilities to be run by external parties - UK Universities Warwick, Leicester, Cambridge, and Queen's University Belfast are involved, together with Observatoire de Genève, DLR Berlin and Universidad de Chile. The exoplanet is too big - so big that scientists are calling it a "monster" planet. The weight of the giant is 20 times less than the mass of Jupiter.

Astronomers have found a giant planet where it does not belong: orbiting tightly around a tiny star.

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As for the star itself, it's a red M-class dwarf. Still, despite using the most state-of-the-art technology available in star searching, discovering NGTS-1b was no easy feat.

But how does a gas giant form next to an M-dwarf star?

Since the unusually huge planet is paired with such a common star, it means more combinations like this may exist out there.

Astronomers at the University of Warwick describe the new star and planet in an article to be published by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"Having worked for nearly a decade to develop the NGTS telescope array, it is thrilling to see it picking out new and unexpected types of planets", Dr. Peter Wheatley, a professor in the astronomy and astrophysics group at the University of Warwick and another leader of the research team, said in a written statement.

"Having worked for nearly a decade to develop the NGTS telescope array, it is thrilling to see it picking out new and unexpected types of planets", Professor Wheatley said.


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