MONSTER PLANET FOUND
A ‘MONSTER’ planet that has been discovered by a team of astronomers wrecks a theory that giant planets can’t be formed by a very small star.
It is the largest planet compared to the size of its companion star ever discovered in the universe.
NGTS-1b, as the planet has been named, is 600 light years away from Earth. It is a gas giant, just like Jupiter and Saturn, but it orbits a star only half the size of our own star, the sun.
The planet is about the same size as Jupiter, which is approximately 143,000 kilometres wide at its equator – big enough to fit more than 1,300 Earths inside.
NGTS-1b sits very close to its star – just 3% of the distance between Earth and the sun. It orbits its star every 2.6 days, meaning a year on the planet lasts just two and a half days. That’s a lot of New Year’s Eve parties!
Previously, experts thought that a planet of this size could not be formed by such a small star. According to the theory, small stars can form rocky planets (similar to Earth or Mars) but they don’t gather enough material together to form Jupiter-sized planets. The new discovery by a team led by scientists from the University of Warwickshire blows that theory to bits.
NGTS-1b orbits a red M-dwarf star, which is the most common type of star in the universe. This means there could be many more giant planets like NGTS-1b out there, orbiting small stars.
An artist’s impression of planet NGTS-1b with its nearby star