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Gravitational currents distort the outer planets into a rugby ball

Gravitational currents distort the outer planets into a rugby ball

The Swiss space telescope “Khufu” monitors the exoplanet WASP-103b. The strong gravitational tide turns it into a rugby ball.

The basics in brief

  • The shape of the rugby ball was discovered thanks to the Swiss Khufu Space Telescope.
  • For the first time, such a distortion has been detected in an exoplanet.
  • The cause of the deformation must be the very strong gravitational tides.

An amazing discovery was made with the help of the Swiss Khufu space telescope. The observations show a previously unknown phenomenon of exoplanet WASP-103b.

In the constellation Hercules, planet WASP-103b orbits its parent star closely and in less than a day. These are the tidal forces On a planet outside the solar system Unusually strong – and deform it into a rugby ball.

The first such discovery

The discovery was made by an international research team with the help of the Universities of Bern and Geneva Swiss Khufu Space Telescope. It is the first time such distortion has been seen on an exoplanet. So stated in a letter from Tuesday.

The mass and radius of WASP-103b is about one and a half times that of Jupiter. An exoplanet orbits its star, which is about 200 degrees warmer than the sun, in just 22 hours. The orbit is about fifty times narrower than the orbit of the earth around the sun. These orbital characteristics mean that the highs and lows caused by the tides are intense: forces pull on the planet so hard that its appearance is reminiscent of a rugby ball.

The mighty forces create the shape of a rugby ball

The results published in the journal “Astronomy and Astrophysics” allow not only to draw conclusions about the strange shape of the planet. It also allows a look inside. Because based on the measurements, the researchers also provided an estimate for the so-called “love number”.

With this parameter, astrophysicists can narrow down how an exoplanet is structured. According to this, the love number of WASP-103b is comparable to that of Jupiter. Which, apart from the larger radius and stronger solar radiation, indicates a similar internal structure.

However, the exact love number is still fraught with a lot of uncertainty. So the team hopes that observations using the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope will help narrow the value down better. According to the researchers, this will allow an unprecedented look inside this hot Jupiter. It can help to better understand these systems of extremism.

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