Exoplanet

A planet at maximum fluffiness Astrophysics

A planet at maximum fluffiness

It's not often that the word "fluffy" appears in a press release about a new astronomical discovery. It refers to the exoplanet WASP-127b, which orbits a star a good 500 light-years from Earth that is slightly larger than the Sun. An international team of astronomers has now not only detected clouds there, but also measured their height with unprecedented precision. WASP-127b is a so-called "hot Saturn" - a giant planet with a similar mass to Saturn, but unlike our (cold) Saturn, it orbits very close to its sun. During one orbit around its star, WASP-127b therefore receives 600 times more radiation…
Interesting planetary system in our neighborhood Life

Interesting planetary system in our neighborhood

At a distance of 34 light-years, the red dwarf L98-59 belongs to the closer neighborhood of the solar system. The fact that three rocky planets orbit it was discovered two years ago by the planet hunter TESS. The three inner planets are relatively close to their parent star. It is probably too warm there for life. The innermost planet is only about half the size of our Venus and thus one of the smallest planets discovered so far. Technically, it is easier to find large and heavy planets than small and light ones, so the true distribution of planet…
Lonely wanderers not uncommon Space

Lonely wanderers not uncommon

In my upcoming novel "Andromeda: The Encounter," an Earth-sized planet is wandering lonely through space. Planets far from any star - how common are they? Apparently, this is not an uncommon phenomenon. Star systems can become dynamically unstable and eject single planets. This could have happened to our solar system in early times. That it is a normal sight is also shown by a research work of British scientists. They have discovered evidence of a mysterious population of such free-floating planets. The findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The study, led by Iain…
Watching a planet grow Space

Watching a planet grow

Astronomers usually detect exoplanets based on irregularities in the glow of the parent star. Although more than 4,000 exoplanets have been cataloged to date, only 15 have been imaged directly by telescopes. Even in their best photos, the planets are just dots, simply because they are so far away and quite small. A new technique from the Hubble team is now expected to help image planets directly. The researchers have used it to catch a rare glimpse of a Jupiter-sized planet, still forming, that feeds on material surrounding a young star. They report it in the Astronomical Journal. "We…
What a volcano would look like on a metal world Space

What a volcano would look like on a metal world

On Earth it rains water, on Titan liquid methane comes from the sky. On some planets it rains iron or even diamonds. Such differences also exist in volcanology. On Ceres, researchers have discovered ice volcanoes, while terrestrial volcanoes spew cinders of liquid rock. On the asteroid Psyche, which consists primarily of metal, there may once have been iron volcanoes. Perhaps elsewhere, too. But what would such volcanoes look like? Knowing that is important for detecting them on distant celestial bodies. A team of researchers led by Arianna Soldati of North Carolina State University has studied this in a very…
Super Venus in our cosmic neighborhood Space

Super Venus in our cosmic neighborhood

Wolf 437, also called Gliese 486, is a red dwarf fairly close to the Sun - just 26 light-years away. What makes it interesting is a planet that astronomers now present in Science. Gliese 486 b moves around its parent star in a circular orbit within 1.5 days and at a distance of only 2.5 million kilometers (Earth: 150 million kilometers). Since its rotation around its own axis always takes the same time, the planet always turns the same side to its sun - similar to the moon to the earth. Although the star Gliese 486 is much fainter and…
Six exoplanets in unusual resonance Astrophysics

Six exoplanets in unusual resonance

If one leaves multi-body systems to themselves, sometimes a strange order appears. The distances of the planetary orbits are integer multiples of a basic value, moons and planets move in unison, celestial bodies always turn to the same side - what we then perceive as cosmic order are all no miracles, but merely results of the effect of gravity in a system built up in a certain way. This is also true of TOI-178, a star about 200 light-years away in the constellation Sculptor. When researchers first observed the star, they initially suspected they had discovered two planets orbiting…
Where it rains rocks into magma oceans Space

Where it rains rocks into magma oceans

Not all rocky worlds resemble the Earth or Mars. If a rocky planet has the bad luck to circle too closely around its star, it becomes an extreme world. Such as the planet K2-141b, which is about 200 light years away from Earth, takes just under 7 hours to orbit around its star K2-141 and orbits only about 1 million kilometers away from it (Earth-Sun: 150 million kilometers). In a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists from McGill University, York University and the Indian Institute of Science Education have analyzed what the weather…