The discovery of a monster planet orbiting a dwarf star has challenged scientists’ understanding of how planets are formed.
The gas giant NGTS-1b, almost the size of Jupiter, was discovered orbiting a star half the mass of our sun 600 light years from Earth. It is the largest planet, in comparison to its host sun, discovered in our universe.
Theory had predicted that tiny stars were unable to gather enough matter to form gigantic planets. The scorching giant, surface temperature 530 degrees Celcius, orbits closely to its star – only 3 per cent of the distance between Earth and the Sun – and its year lasts just 2.6 Earth-days.
It was found by the Next-Generation Transit Survey, an array of robotic telescopes located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, and announced in a paper submitted to Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society by a research team from Warwick University.
Professor Peter Wheatley, a lead researcher on the study, has predicted future discoveries of similar giant planets lurking in our universe. “Small stars are actually the most common in the universe, so it is possible that there are many of these [giants] waiting to be found,” he said.
Lead astronomer Dr Daniel Bayliss said the team would now attempt to find out how common such planets are in the galaxy. – Eleanor Campbell
Image is an artist’s impression of the gas giant, from Warwick University.