A joint team of U.S. researchers detected a gas giant the size of Jupiter with a highly eccentric orbit 190 light years from our planet. The exoplanet, which was spotted in Ursa Major constellation, routinely performs a weird dance around its host star, which ends with the planet being nearly scorched to death every 111 days
Planet HD 80606 b is as large as Jupiter but four times as massive. But the major point of attraction is its orbit, which is unlike anything scientists have seen in other planets outside our solar system.
HD 80606 b has the habit of getting so close to its star that its surface can boil up to temperatures of 2,000 degrees F or 1,093 degrees C. The planet was discovered by astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California-Santa Cruz, and a few others.
The team noticed that it takes 100 days for the planet to complete a full orbit before having a steamy encounter with its star. The exoplanet needs about 20 hours to sweep around the stellar companion and get blasted with a mind-boggling amount of energy and heat. Researchers estimate that in those hours, HD 80606 b receives a thousand times more energy than the Earth usually get from the Sun on a daily basis.
Scientists believe that hot Jupiters are planets located far from their host star, but a massive object such as a planet or other star pushes into an orbit that gets them a lot closer to their stars. Because of their proximity to the host star, they contract from all the energy and gravity into dense balls.
University of California-Santa Cruz ’s Greg Laughlin, one of the astronomers involved in the finding, likened the process to taking a Nerf ball and squeezing it repeatedly until it warms up. He explained that the mechanical energy gets converted into heat.
Astronomers believe that the newly found hot Jupiter is on the course of developing a more regular orbit. But that won’t happen for the next hundreds of millions of years. According to some more pessimistic estimates, it may take as long as 10 billion years.
The hot Jupiter could also provide researchers with valuable information on how planets change orbits and how solar systems shape. The team is confident that such changes in orbit may make some exoplanets habitable.
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