by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Nov 01, 2017
A giant planet, which should not exist according to planet formation theory, has been discovered around a distant star. The new research is presented in a paper recently accepted for publication in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The existence of the 'monster' planet, 'NGTS-1b', challenges theories of planet formation which state that a planet of this size could not be formed around such a small star. According to these theories, small stars can readily form rocky planets but do not gather enough material together to form Jupiter-sized planets.
'NGTS-1b' however, is a 'gas giant' - due to its size and temperature, the planet is known as a 'hot Jupiter', a class of planets that are at least as large as our solar system's very own Jupiter, but with around 20% less mass. Unlike Jupiter however, NGTS-1b is very close to its star - just 3% of the distance between Earth and the Sun, and completes an orbit every 2.6 days, meaning a year on NGTS-1b lasts two and a half Earth-days.
In contrast, the host star is small, with a radius and mass half that of our sun. Professor Peter Wheatley from the University of Warwick commented on the complications this introduced: "Despite being a monster of a planet, NGTS-1b was difficult to find because its parent star is so small and faint". He went on to explain the significance of the discovery given the challenging circumstances "small stars like this red M-dwarf are actually the most common in the Universe, so it is possible that there are many of these giant planets waiting to found."
NGTS-1b is the first planet to be spotted by The Next-Generation Transit Survey (or 'NGTS') which employs an array of 12 telescopes to scour the sky. The researchers made their discovery by continually monitoring patches of the night sky over many months, and detecting red light from the star with innovative red-sensitive cameras. They noticed dips in the light from the star every 2.6 days, implying that a planet was orbiting and periodically blocking the starlight.
Using these data, they then tracked the planet's orbit and calculated the size, position and mass of NGTS-1b by measuring the radial velocity of the star. In fact, this method, measuring how much the star 'wobbles' due to the gravitational tug from the planet, was the best way of measuring NGTS-1b's size.
Dr Daniel Bayliss, lead author of the study, also from the University of Warwick, commented "The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us - such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars - importantly, our challenge now is to find out how common these types of planets are in the Galaxy, and with the new Next-Generation Transit Survey facility we are well-placed to do just that."
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 Geneve, DLR Berlin and Universidad de Chile.
Professor Peter Wheatley leads NGTS, and was pleased to see these exciting results: "Having worked for almost a decade to develop the NGTS telescope array, it is thrilling to see it picking out new and unexpected types of planets. I'm looking forward to seeing what other kinds of exciting new planets we can turn up."
London, UK (SPX) Oct 27, 2017
Citizen scientist Thomas Jacobs was the first to spot tell-tale signs that a comet was orbiting a distant star monitored by the Kepler Space Observatory. Professor Saul Rappaport (Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MIT) and his team then collaborated with Jacobs to report the discovery in new research published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The discovery marks ... read more
Royal Astronomical Society
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|