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Newly Discovered Exoplanet is Too Big for Its Tiny, Cool Star

First Posted: May 04, 2015 10:11 AM EDT
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A newly discovered exoplanet may be too big for its star. Scientists have discovered a strange exoplanet orbiting a small cool star about 500 light-years away that's challenging ideas about how planets forms.

"We have found a small star, with a giant planet the size of Jupiter, orbiting very closely," said George Zhou, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It must have formed further out and migrated in, but our theories can't explain how this happened."

In the past two decades, more than 1,800 extrasolar planets have been discovered outside our solar system orbiting other stars. This latest discovering includes the exoplanet orbitng a star called HATS-6. The star is known as an M-dwarf star and is cool and dim; it emits only one twentieth the light of our own sun.

"The planet has a similar mass to Saturn, but its radius is similar to Jupiter, so it's quite a puffed up planet," said Zhou. "Because its host star is so cool it's not heating the planet up so much, it's very different from the planets we have observed so far. The atmosphere of this planet will be an interesting target for future study."

The findings reveal a bit more about this exoplanet and challenge the tradition notion of how planets form. This is important to note as researchers continue to comb the universe for more planets and hunt for the possibility of life on other worlds.

The findings are published in the Astronomical Journal.

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