TECH

We've Discovered A Monster Planet That Shouldn't Exist

It defies all logic.

01/11/2017 11:06 GMT

Despite having only ever glimpsed a fraction of the universe that exists beyond our solar system, scientists still think they have a fairly good idea of what we can expect to find out there.

Using a combination of mathematics, physics and some good old fashioned observation researchers have come up with theories about how planets form, that had so far been proved correct.

But now a giant ‘monster’ planet has showed up in space, where quite simply, it shouldn’t be.

University of Warwick/Mark Garlick

According to basic planet formation theory, all planets have to form around a parent star.

And the size of that planet is going to be directly relative to the size of the star and the amount of material it can gather to form the planet.

So, in theory, a giant planet, cannot exist around a very small star. Instead, a small star would form a small rocky planet.

However the newly-discovered gas giant, NGTS-1b, challenges this because it is at least as large as our Jupiter, despite the parent star having a radius and mass equivalent to 50% of our sun.

Dr Daniel Bayliss, lead author, from the Royal Astronomical Society, said:  “The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us - such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars.”

This is the first planet to be spotted by the Next-Generation Transit Survey, which has been using 12 telescopes to continually monitoring patches of sky over many months and noticed a dip in starlight as the planet periodically passed in front of the star.

Unlike Jupiter, it is situated very close to its parent star at just 3% of the distance between earth and sun, and completes an orbit every 2.6 days.

Meaning a year lasts two and a half earth days.  

This discovery was not only surprising for the team, but also leads to the suggestion that this isn’t the only one out there.

In fact, there could be many waiting to be found, because small stars like this red M-dwarf are the most common in the universe, according to the team.

Dr Bayliss said: “Our challenge now is to find out how common these types of planets are in the Galaxy, and with the new Next-Generation Transit Survey facility we are well-placed to do just that.”