‘Weird’ new planet retained atmosphere despite nearby star’s relentless radiation | Science & Technology

A rare exoplanet that should have been stripped down to bare rock by its nearby host star’s intense radiation somehow grew a puffy atmosphere instead — the latest in a string of discoveries forcing scientists to rethink theories about how planets age and die in extreme environments.

Nicknamed “Phoenix” for its ability to survive its red giant star’s radiant energy, the newly discovered planet illustrates the vast diversity of solar systems and the complexity of planetary evolution — especially at the end of stars’ lives.

The findings are published in The Astronomical Journal.

“This planet isn’t evolving the way we thought it would, it appears to have a much bigger, less dense atmosphere than we expected for these systems,” said Sam Grunblatt, a Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist who led the research. “How it held on to that atmosphere despite being so close to such a large host star is the big question.”

The new planet belongs to a category of rare worlds called “hot Neptunes” because they share many similarities with the solar system’s outermost, frozen giant despite being far closer to their host stars and far hotter. Officially named TIC365102760 b, the latest puffy planet is surprisingly smaller, older, and hotter than scientists thought possible. It is 6.2 times bigger than Earth, completes an orbit around its parent star every 4.2 days, and is about 6 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun.

Because of Phoenix’s age and scorching temperatures, coupled with its unexpectedly low density, the process of stripping its atmosphere must have occurred at a slower pace than scientists thought possible, the scientists concluded. They also estimated that the planet is 60 times less dense than the densest “hot Neptune” discovered to date, and that it won’t survive more than 100 million years before it begins dying by spiraling into its giant star.

“It’s the smallest planet we’ve ever found around one of these red giants, and probably the lowest mass…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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