Astronomers Have Found A Strange Planet That ‘Shouldn’t Exist’


By now we already know that the universe holds countless mysteries. The more we search the cosmos for answers, and the more we try to understand it, the more we learn how little we actually know.

Each day, the universe continues to surprise us, showing us how small we are in the vastness of space.

There are things out there that could possibly defy our very understanding of the word possible.

Image Credit: Denis Bajram / University of Geneva

And things we thought before to be impossible have actually shown us the true meaning of the word IMPOSSIBLE: I’m Possible.

Now, astronomers have come across a distant alien world no one ever thought could possibly exist: a planet shaped like a balloon.

The Neptune-sized world is located some 12lightyearsrs away from Earth and was discovered by an international research team led by scientists from the University of Geneva.

Astronomers say that the planet’s atmosphere is filled with helium, something that caused the distant world to swell to the shape of a balloon.

Speaking about the odd planet, Dr. Jessica Spake, from the University of Exeter’s physics and astronomy department, said: “This is a really exciting discovery, particularly as helium was only detected in exoplanet atmospheres for the first time earlier this year.”

“The observations show helium being blasted away from the planet by radiation from its host star.”

“Hopefully, we can use this new study to learn what types of planets have large envelopes of hydrogen and helium, and how long they can hold the gases in their atmospheres,” she added.

The strange world has been dubbed HAT-P-11b and it is located in the Constellation of Cygnus

Using a spectrograph in Spain, astronomers measured how much light the planet blocks as it passes in front of its host star. Then, astronomers using the instrument divided the star’s light into component colors, just like a rainbow. 

As Helium absorbs light in a specific wavelength, astronomers found a massive cloud of Gas surrounding the alien world. They found that this cloud of gas is blocking away more light than the planet itself.

Scientists also used computer simulations that allowed them to accurately track the trajectory of helium atoms.

“Helium is blown away from the day side of the planet to its night side at over 10,000kph. Because it is such a light gas, it escapes easily from the attraction of the planet and forms an extended cloud all around it,” explained Vincent Bourrier, the scientist who led the computer simulation.

This precisely is what gives the planet its strange shape. Scientists have discovered that the atmosphere of HAT-P-11b is located 20 times closer to its host star than the Earth is from the Sun.

“We suspected that this proximity with the star could impact the atmosphere of this exoplanet. “The new observations are so precise that the exoplanet atmosphere is undoubtedly inflated by the stellar radiation and escapes to space,” concluded the first author of the study Romain Allart, from the University of Geneva.


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