Researchers believe that the elongated shape is due to the force of the seas of the planet WASP-103b, which is about the same size as Jupiter.
In searching for planets that are beyond our solar system, astronomers will find a giant exoplanet that looks more like a football or rugby ball than a sphere.
The planet, called WASP-103b, is two extremes. Located about 1,225 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Hercules, or planet that is almost the size of Jupiter.
The strange world is also 50 times closer to its star, to WASP-103, than it is to Terra from the sun. It made a complete orbit around it in less than one Earth day. With its scale and short orbit, this gas giant is classified as the planet “Jupiter quente”.
The planet was discovered for the first time in 2014 and was observed using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The researchers wanted to obtain another perspective of WASP-103b using a joint mission from Switzerland and the CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS) of the European Space Agency, to combine it with previous observations.
The satellite, launched in 2019, searches for potentially habitable planets. It detects planets using the transit method, or seja, measuring thus the stellar brightness, when a planet passes in front of a star.
When astronomers observe WASP-103b passing in front of their star, they are able to see the strange shape of the planet, resembling an American football.
A study detailing the discoveries was published on the terça-feira in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
“After observing several two so-called ‘transits’, we were able to measure the deformation. It is incredible that we managed to do this – it is the first time that such an analysis is done”, says the co-author of the study Babatunde Akinsanmi, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.
The researchers suspect that the elongated shape is due to the force of the massive seas that occur on the planet.
On Earth, the ocean seas are, in large part, the result of the gravitational attraction of the moon. Essa força causes seas lows and highs, but nothing dramatic or enough to be visível do espaço.
“Because of the great proximity of it to its star, we suspect that they are caused by very large seas on the planet. However, we still haven’t been able to verify this”, said in a statement or co-author of the study Yann Alibert, professor of astrophysics at the University of Bern, in Switzerland.
The deformation of the planet also allowed researchers to learn more about its composition, which is gaseous like Jupiter. As the largest planet in our solar system with a frigid average temperature of negative 108 degrees Celsius, this planet is probably inflated due to the heat of its incredibly close star, and that is why it is considered a “hot Jupiter” planet. At starlight it is about 200 grams more and 1.7 times more than our sun.
We astronomers want to investigate another mystery about the planet. Normally, a massive planet like this orbiting around its host star would gradually approach it and, over time, be engulfed by it. Current measurements seem to suggest that the planet is moving away, rather than moving closer to its star.
Future observations may help astronomers discover more about the internal structure and deformation of the planet, as well as any similar exoplanets. Quent Jupiters will prove to be common during the first detections of exoplanets, but misshapen planets are incredibly rare.
Earlier, the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that its star’s extreme heat and intense gravity are warping another planet, named WASP-121b, into the shape of a football.