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KELT-9B : Scientists Discover Hottest Giant Planet of the Solar System

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Artist's concept shows planet KELT-9b orbiting its host star, KELT-9. Source: www.jpl.nasa.gov
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  • KELT-9b is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter, but only half as dense
  • It is the hottest gas giant planet that has ever been discovered
  • One side of the planet is always facing toward the star, and one side is in perpetual darkness

Washington June 7, 2017: Astronomers have discovered the hottest planet ever known, with a dayside temperature of more than 4,300 degrees Celsius.

In fact, this planet, called KELT-9b, is hotter than most stars, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

“This is the hottest gas giant planet that has ever been discovered,” said Scott Gaudi, Professor at the Ohio State University in Columbus who led a study.

KELT-9b is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter, but only half as dense.

It is nowhere close to habitable, but Gaudi said there is a good reason to study worlds that are unlivable in the extreme.

“As has been highlighted by the recent discoveries from the MEarth collaboration, the planet around Proxima Centauri, and the astonishing system discovered around TRAPPIST-1, the astronomical community is clearly focused on finding Earthlike planets around small, cooler stars like our sun,” Gaudi said.

“They are easy targets and there’s a lot that can be learned about potentially habitable planets orbiting very low-mass stars in general. On the other hand, because KELT-9b’s host star is bigger and hotter than the Sun, it complements those efforts and provides a kind of touchstone for understanding how planetary systems form around hot, massive stars,” he explained.

Because the planet is tidally locked to its star — as the moon is to Earth — one side of the planet is always facing toward the star, and one side is in perpetual darkness.

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Molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane cannot form on the dayside because it is bombarded by too much ultraviolet radiation.

The properties of the nightside are still mysterious — molecules may be able to form there, but probably only temporarily.

“It’s a planet by any of the typical definitions of mass, but its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we’ve ever seen just because of the temperature of its dayside,” said Gaudi, worked on this study while on sabbatical at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Its star, called KELT-9, is even hotter — in fact, it is probably unravelling the planet through evaporation. It is only 300 million years old, which is young in star time.

It is more than twice as large, and nearly twice as hot, as our sun.

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Given that the planet’s atmosphere is constantly blasted with high levels of ultraviolet radiation, the planet may even be shedding a tail of evaporated planetary material like a comet.

“KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet,” said Keivan Stassun, Professor at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

The KELT-9b planet was found using the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, or KELT. (IANS)

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Water-Rich Planets Commonly Found Outside The Solar System, Study Reveals

The researchers believe that these water worlds likely formed in similar ways to the giant planet cores (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) which we find in our own solar system

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Solar system
Water-rich planets outside our solar system common: Study. Pixabay

Water is likely to be a major component of those exoplanets which are between two to four times the size of Earth, suggests new research that may have implications for the search of life in our solar system.

Water has been implied previously on individual exoplanets, but this work, presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Boston, Massachusetts, concludes that water-rich planets outside our solar system are common.

The new research, based on data from the exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope and the Gaia mission, indicates that many of the known planets may contain as much as 50 per cent water, which is much more than the Earth’s 0.02 per cent (by weight) water content.

“It was a huge surprise to realise that there must be so many water-worlds,” said lead researcher Li Zeng of Harvard University.

Scientists have found that many of the 4,000 confirmed or candidate exoplanets discovered so far fall into two size categories — those with the planetary radius averaging around 1.5 times that of the Earth, and those averaging around 2.5 times the radius of the Earth.

Solar system
Solar system. Pixabay

For this study, the scientists developed a model for internal structures of the exoplanets after analysing the exoplanets with mass measurements and recent radius measurements from the Gaia satellite.

“We have looked at how mass relates to radius, and developed a model which might explain the relationship”, said Li Zeng.

“The model indicates that those exoplanets which have a radius of around x1.5 Earth radius tend to be rocky planets (of typically x5 the mass of the Earth), while those with a radius of x2.5 Earth radius (with a mass around x10 that of the Earth) are probably water worlds,” he added.

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“Our data indicate that about 35 per cent of all known exoplanets which are bigger than Earth should be water-rich,” he said, adding that surface of these exoplanets may be shrouded in a water-vapour-dominated atmosphere, with a liquid water layer underneath.

The researchers believe that these water worlds likely formed in similar ways to the giant planet cores (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) which we find in our own solar system. (IANS)