Scientists have discovered one of the strangest exoplanets, so light and fluffy that it’s been compared to candyfloss (or cotton candy if you’re American).
The planet, 1,232 light-years away, is called WASP-193b by researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium. The findings of their study, led by astronomer Khalid Barkaoui, were published arXiv.
The so-called gas giant planet is 50 percent larger than Jupiter and orbits a 6-billion-year-old Sun-like star named WASP-193.
Although this star is slightly larger than our Sun, it is still said to be about the same temperature as Earth, and WASP-193b orbits its star every 6.25 days.
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By studying the planet, Barkouy and his team were able to determine its density to be 0.059 grams per cubic centimeter. For comparison, Earth has a density of 5.51 grams per cubic centimeter, while Candyfloss has a density of 0.05 grams.
There are few other examples of a planet like this existing, but its proximity to a star may provide a clue to how it formed, as its heat likely warms the planet’s atmosphere, which is mostly made up of hydrogen and helium.
This state of the planet would only last for about ten million years, as the temperature and winds emitted by the star would pull the atmosphere further back.
Because of this, scientists cannot fully reproduce or determine what causes WASP-193b’s unique atmosphere, but it is likely to be a source of further study to try to find the cause of this phenomenon.
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