Potato-shaped Exoplanet 1500 Light-years Away from Earth Discovered

Potato-shaped Exoplanet 1500 Light-years Away from Earth Discovered


Astronomers have discovered a new planet that has expanded our understanding of planets. An international team of astronomers published their findings in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal on Tuesday where they shared details of a planet with a weird shape for the first time. The planet WASP-103b, located around an F-type star 1500 light-years away from Earth has a potato-like shape and not the usual globe shape as pointed out by the study.

Describing it as an “extreme system,” astronomers mention in their study that one of the reasons why WASP-103b is shaped like a rugby ball is its close proximity to its home star, less than 32,186 kilometers. WASP-103b was discovered by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) CHaracterising ExOplanet Satellite (CHEOPS) mission in 2014. According to ESA, the planet is located in the constellation of Hercules and has been deformed by the strong tidal forces between the planet and its host star WASP-103, which is about 200 degrees hotter and 1.7 times larger than our Sun.

Data collected by the CHEOPS mission revealed that the exoplanet orbits WASP-103 in 22 hours. Although it is not the shortest known orbital period, ESA informs that some exoplanets have been found with periods less than ten hours, but it is short enough to make WASP-103b a pretty extreme world. To conduct their research, astronomers observed 12 transit light curves of WASP-103b with the CHEOPS to estimate the tidal deformation and tidal decay of the planet.

According to ESA, Earth experiences tides in the oceans due to the Moon tugging slightly on the planet as it orbits us.

However, recent research has mentioned that the same cannot be said for WASP-103b, which is almost twice the size of Jupiter with 1.5 times its mass.

To model the tidal deformation of the planet, researchers have used a parametrisation model. They then combined the light curves with previously observed transits of WASP-103b with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to increase the signal-to-noise of the light curve and distinguish the minute signal expected from the planetary deformation with more clarity

Jacques Laskar of Paris Observatory, Université Paris Sciences et Lettres, and co-author of the research, said in a statement, “It’s incredible that Cheops was actually able to reveal this tiny deformation. This is the first time such analysis has been made, and we can hope that observing over a longer time interval will strengthen this observation and lead to a better knowledge of the planet’s internal structure.”

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