NASA researchers and citizen scientists have been flooding our imaginations lately with thousands of newly discovered exoplanets, including a whole boatload of candidates for habitable planets, as in the case of Trappist-1 and its seven wanderers. But a newly discovered exoplanet is now being added to the list of exotic far-away worlds we're aware of, and it's of an extremely rare type. It's name is KELT-9b, and thanks to its proximity to its parent star, it's surface temperature is 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,600 Kelvin) making it hotter than some stars.
The "Hot Jupiter," which comes via the New York Post, was discovered by astronomers at Ohio State, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The discovery was published in the journal Nature, and made using two Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) telescopes, which were shared amongst the universities' researchers—because an extremely little telescope can go a long way if you share it!
This video shows how KELT-9b, and exoplanets in general, are found. Astronomers look for periodic dips in a given star's light, which signals that an object is consistently passing in front of the star. Image: YouTube / NASA's Ames Research Center
KELT-9b is so blazingly hot because of its short orbital distance from its parent star, KELT-9. In fact, KELT-9b orbits so closely to KELT-9 that a "year" for it—the time it takes for the planet to make a full revolution around its parent star—only takes 1.5 Earth days. And due to the fact that KELT-9b is tidally locked with KELT-9 (that is, it only ever shows one side to KELT-9 because its orbital period is equal to its rotation period), only one side of the planet is as hot as Hell-O operator please give me number nine. Despite only one side of the planet getting blasted, Keivan Stassun, a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt and co-director of the study, told NASA that "'KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet.'"
— NASA (@NASA) June 5, 2017
KELT-9b is also odd because it orbits KELT-9 perpendicular to the star's spin axis. As NASA points out in its press release, "That would be analogous to the planet orbiting perpendicular to the plane of our solar system."
But despite the oddities of this world, astronomers still say that it's worth exploring because it fills in gaps in our knowledge of how planetary physics work under extreme conditions. KELT-9b may be so hot on its dayside as to only allow for atomic metals, while on its nightside, it may be cool enough for molecules to form, for example. KELT-9b may even have a tail like a comet, due to KELT-9 blasting the planet's atmosphere away from itself.
What do you think about this Hot Jupiter? Does it kind of remind you of a partially cooked Hot Pocket too? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Images: NASA / JPL-Caltech
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