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Updated January 13th, 2022 at 16:58 IST

Astronomers find 'deformed' rugby ball-shaped planet for first time outside solar system

This is the first time an exoplanet's deformation has been discovered, providing fresh information on the inner structure of these star-hugging planets.

Reported by: Anurag Roushan
New planet
Image: Twitter/@ESA_CHEOPS | Image:self
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Astronomers have recently discovered a 'deformed' planet that somewhat looks like a rugby ball, the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a release. As per the release, this is the first time an exoplanet's deformation has been discovered, providing fresh information on the inner structure of these star-hugging planets. The planet, dubbed as WASP-103b, has been found in the Hercules constellation. According to ESA, it has been deformed owing to strong tidal pressures between the planet and its host star WASP-103, which is believed to be 200 degrees hotter and 1.7 times larger than the Sun. 

New data from Cheops, the European Space Agency's effort to detect exoplanets, revealed the existence of the planet Wasp-103b. It was coupled with data from the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. As per the release, scientists discover such exoplanets by looking for 'transits,' which occur when they pass in front of their star and cause a drop in the light it emits. Researchers can deduce the size and other characteristics of the planets based on the nature of the transit. 

Astronomers were able to see the signal in greater detail using Cheops. From this, astronomers were able to deduce the planet's squished shape as well as other details. Jacques Laskar of Paris Observatory, Université Paris Sciences et Lettres, and co-author of the study, stated that it is astonishing that Cheops was able to reveal this tiny deformation. "This is the first time such an analysis has been performed, and we can only hope that observing over a longer period of time will enhance this finding and lead to a deeper understanding of the planet's underlying structure," he added as per the release.

Planet's mass 1.5 times that of Jupiter

In addition, the data revealed that the planet is 'inflated.' While it has around 1.5 times the mass of Jupiter, it has twice the radius, implying that it is partially inflated as a result of its star's heat. It should be mentioned here that the study titled ‘Cheops reveals the tidal deformation of WASP-103b', was published in Astronomy and Astrophysics journal. According to researchers, further work, including that from the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, is expected to provide even more certainty on these calculations, as well as some more insight into the unique shape of the planet. 

(Image: Twitter/@ESA_CHEOPS)

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Published January 13th, 2022 at 16:58 IST

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