New Jupiter-sized planet with some unusual features discovered

The latest findings could deepen astronomers' understanding of planetary formation.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image of an exoplanet.
Representational image of an exoplanet.

Darryl Fonseka/iStock 

Astronomers have been perplexed by the strange features of a newly discovered Jupiter-sized alien world.  

This exoplanet (a planet outside the solar system) was first spotted using NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite; however, the data was inadequate to certify that it was a planet.

Later, astronomers from the University of Birmingham conducted observations of this exoplanet using the SPECULOOS South Observatory based in the Atacama Desert of Chile. To confirm this sighting, the team also measured the mass of the planet using the Subaru Telescope in Hawai’i. 

The planet (TOI-4860 b) orbits its host star (TOI-4860), a low-mass or red dwarf star. It has a relatively short orbital period of just 1.52 days. This star system is pointed in the direction of the constellation Corvus.

The unusual properties of this alien planetary system

TOI-4860 b is considered an "unusual planet" for two primary reasons.

Firstly, low-mass stars are not expected to pave the way for the formation of high-mass planets in their systems. 

“Under the canonical planet formation model, the less mass a star has, the less massive is the disc of material around that star,” said George Dransfield, Ph.D. student, in an official release. 

Dransfield further explained: “Since planets are created from that disc, high-mass planets like Jupiter, were widely expected not to form. However, we were curious about this and wanted to check planetary candidates to see if it was possible. TOI-4860 is our first confirmation and also the lowest mass star hosting such a high mass planet.”

Exoplanet enriched with heavy elements

Secondly, the planet looks to be highly rich in heavy elements.

“A hint of what might have happened is hidden in the planetary properties, which appear particularly enriched in heavy elements. We have detected something similar in the host star too, so it is likely that an abundance of heavy elements catalyzed the planet formation process,” said Amaury Triaud, professor of exoplanetology at the university, who led this new study.

The international team of astronomers measured the planetary signal in multiple wavelengths in order to validate these properties. A closer look at this system may give further insight into the atmospheric features of this hot gas-giant planet.

The latest findings could deepen astronomers' understanding of planetary formation. The study also indicates there could be plenty of strange planetary systems that defy some of the recognized cosmic rules.

The findings have been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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