This Rare, Massive Planet is Six Times the Mass of Jupiter and Has Extreme Seasons

First Posted: Feb 13, 2015 08:35 AM EST

Astronomers have discovered a rare planet with some extreme seasons. Called Kepler-432b, the planet is one of the most dense and massive planets to be discovered thus far, and has temperatures that range from 500 degrees Celsius to a scorching 1,000 degrees.

"The majority of known planets moving around giant stars have large and circular orbits," said Davide Gandolfi, one of the researchers, in a news release. This planet, though, is an exception. While the planet has six times the mass of Jupiter and while it orbits around a red giant star, it has an orbit that's highly irregular.

The orbit itself brings Kepler-432b incredibly close to its host star at some times and much further away at others. This creates enormous temperature differences over the course of the planet's year, which is about 52 Earth days. During the winter, the temperature on the planet is about 500 degrees Celsius. During the summer, though, it increases to nearly 1,000 degrees.

That said, this planet is doomed in the long run. The irregular orbit and the large star that it orbits will lead to catastrophe.

"The days of Kepler-432b are numbered, though," said Mauricio Ortiz, one of the researchers. "In less than 200 million years, KEpler-432b will be swallowed by its continually expanding host star. This might be the reason why we do not find other planets like Kepler-432b-astronomically speaking, their lives are extremely short."

The findings are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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