Researchers are developing new theories to explain the formation of “Hot Jupiters” thanks to a newly-discovered exoplanet.

Exoplanets are nothing more than planets discovered outside Earth’s solar system. Experts also refer to them as extrasolar planets or exotic planets. Over 2,000 exoplanets have been discovered since 1988 in 1,342 different planetary systems, according to the website Exoplanets.

Picture of a simulation of the atmosphere of exoplanet HD 80606b. Credit: NASA

“Hot Jupiters” are a class of exoplanets that orbit in a much closer way to the star in their system, this causes the planet to experience high surface temperature. These planets have very similar characteristics to Jupiter, which is considered a gas giant.

Scientists thought that gas giants tended to orbit further out in planetary systems, but the discovery of “Hot Jupiters” have developed thousands of studies to understand, in a better way, how these massive roaster planets end up orbiting so close to their stars.

A recent study published in the Institute of Physics’ Astrophysical Journal has increased the amount of theories on the creation of “Hot Jupiters.”

The team of researchers is formed by scientists from facilities such as MIT, The Space Telescope Science Institute and The University of California at Santa Cruz. The study is first authored by researcher Julien de Wit a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

The research observes an exoplanet called HD 80606 b, which is about the size of Jupiter but four times as massive. The exotic planet is located in a planetary system with a 190 light years distance from Earth, in the constellation Ursa Major.

After a great amount of observation through NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, HD 80606 b. stands out among other exoplanets, because of its highly eccentric orbit, instead of maintaining a circular path.

This means that the “Hot Jupiter” not only travels in a much closer way to the star in its system but it travels an oblong route away from the star and then returns to it, similar to the trajectory of comets.

In the trajectory, the exoplanet returns to its parent star in a matter of just 20 hours, when the planet passes by its star, in its closest approach receives a gigantic energy from its star.

Researchers have said that the energy received by the planet is over a thousand times more than the energy the Earth receives from the sun on a normal day.

“If the Earth were to be moved that close to our sun, it would lose its atmosphere and turn its surface to magma,” said lead author, Julien de Wit, in the press release published in the journal.

The team of scientists observed the exoplanet for over 85 hours during its closest approach to its star.  Examining the planet’s temperature, researchers found that the star-facing side of the planet rises its temperature to over 1,400 kelvins, but the high temperatures only last a few hours in the exoplanet.

The planet cools down in just 10 hours while it’s orbiting away from the star, reaching cold temperatures that cause the planet to be invisible to NASA’s telescope.

The orbiting process happens every 111 days and it repeats itself over and over again. Lead author Julien de Wit categorizes the process as a “complete reset.”

This discovery amazes experts and reforms all speculated theories on “Hot Jupiters.” The fact that exoplanet HD 80606b possess an eccentric orbiting, causes scientists to rethink theories that imply underlying migration mechanisms.

Migration mechanisms were thought to last more, according to previous theories.

“This system is undoubtedly very unique and it seems to challenge in many ways our understanding of planet-star interactions and planet formation. Hopefully, future studies will help us evaluate how special this system is,” said lead author, Julien de Wit.

Source: MIT