Astronomers are scratching their heads on how gas giants can be so light
Located 212 light years from the Earth, scientists have discovered a gas giant light enough to be given a nickname like “super-puff” or “cotton candy”, and is circling extremely close to its host star. In fact, it’s so light that it’s making astronomers question everything that they’ve previously declared regarding the formation of gas giants.
The new planet’s basic info
Nobody has named the new planet “super-puff” yet, so it’s going by WASP-107b, and it’s about the same size of Jupiter, but with only one-tenth the mass. It’s about 30 times more massive than the Earth.
In a new study published on Monday in The Astronomical Journal, the planet’s core is a lot smaller than how astronomers thought was necessary in the creation of gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn.
The discovery has been made by Ph.D. student Caroline Piaulet under the supervision of professor Björn Benneke at the university of Montreal, and it indicates that the formation of gas giants are not as complex as we used to believe.
WASP-107b is not a recently-discovered planet. It’s first discovery was in 2017 when it was spotted in the Virgo constellation. It’s placed very close to its star, more than 16 times closer than Earth is to the Sun, and completes an orbit every 5.7 days.
The unique mass
Scientists continued to get shocked by seeing it’s mass. It’s no more than 4 times the Earth’s mass, which means that more than 85% of its mass comprises of the thick gaseous layer that surrounds it’s core.
Co-author Eve Lee of the study made a theory that the most plausible reason could be that the planet formed a long way away from the star, in a place where gas accretion could take place quickly.
The team will continue to closely study the planet after launching the James Webb Space Telescope this year.
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