Posted by on January 13, 2022 7:08 pm
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Astronomers discover potato-shaped planet

Artist impression of planet WASP-103b and its host star. (European Space Agency.)

Astronomers discover potato-shaped planet

Virginia Aabram January 13, 06:46 PMJanuary 13, 06:46 PM

Astronomers at the European Space Agency have discovered an oblong-shaped planet that resembles a potato.

The planet, called WASP-103b, is the first planet discovered that “has a deformed shape more like that of a rugby ball than a sphere,” the ESA announced Tuesday. Located in the Hercules constellation, researchers say the planet’s strong tidal forces, caused by the host star’s close proximity, bent it out of the traditional spherical shape.

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Though first discovered in 2014, recent observations through the ESA’s Cheops telescope mission to study planets outside the solar system confirmed the squashed shape.

“It’s incredible that Cheops was actually able to reveal this tiny deformation,” said Jacques Laskar of Paris Observatory, who co-authored the research. “This is the first time such analysis has been made, and we can hope that observing over a longer time interval will strengthen this observation and lead to better knowledge of the planet’s internal structure.”

The astronomers used the Cheops telescope to watch how the star dimmed as WASP-103b passed in front of it — and measured how much it dimmed. These calculations revealed the potato-like planet’s shape and that it’s nearly twice the size of Jupiter. The planet orbits its host star in less than one Earth day.

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“The resistance of a material to being deformed depends on its composition,” said Susana Barros, lead author of the research. “For example, here on Earth, we have tides due to the moon and the sun, but we can only see tides in the oceans. The rocky part doesn’t move that much. By measuring how much the planet is deformed, we can tell how much of it is rocky, gaseous, or water.”

The researchers intend to study the planet more with the recently launched NASA James Webb telescope.

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Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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