Science

3 newly discovered worlds are at risk of disappearing by orbiting too close to dying stars

Astronomers have detected three new exoplanets orbiting dangerously close to their parent stars, on the verge of extinction.

The three exoplanets, named TOI-2337b, TOI-4329b, and TOI-2669b, were discovered using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) at WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii. .

“These planets are in such extreme places that actually less than 10 years ago, no one thought they really existed,” said Samuel Grunblatt, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History, during a news conference. held by the American Astronomical Society on Thursday (January 13). The new research was meant to be presented at a conference that the organization canceled due to high rates of COVID-19.

Related: The 10 Biggest Exoplanet Discoveries Of 2021

The newly discovered alien worlds are classified as gas giants, with masses between 0.5 and 1.7 times that of Jupiter. The planets also differ greatly in size and density, suggesting that they have different origins, according to a statement from the WM Keck Observatory.

“These discoveries are crucial to understanding a new frontier in exoplanet studies: how planetary systems evolve over time,” Grunblatt said in the Keck statement. “These observations offer new windows into planets nearing the end of their lives, before they are swallowed by their host stars.”

As a star evolves and enters the last 10% of its life, it can lurch into nearby planets. In turn, altering the orbit of planets around a parent star could destabilize an entire planetary system or cause planets to collide as they approach each other. Also, as planets spiral toward their host stars, they heat up, which can trigger atmospheric changes, such as swelling. This type of interplanetary interaction may explain the different densities between the newly discovered alien worlds, according to the statement.

Observations of TOI-2337b, TOI-4329b, and TOI-2669b also revealed that all three exoplanets have some of the shortest orbits yet discovered around dying subgiant or giant stars. For example, TOI-2337b’s orbital period suggests the exoplanet will be consumed by its host star in less than 1 million years, which is earlier than any other known planet, according to the study.

“We hope to find tens to hundreds of these evolved transiting planet systems with TESS, providing new details about how planets interact with each other, inflate, and migrate around stars, including those like our sun,” said Nick Saunders, co-author of the study. study. and a graduate student at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, he said in the statement.

Therefore, studying planetary systems like TOI-2337b, TOI-4329b and TOI-2669b may provide a better understanding of the evolution of our own solar system, the researchers said.

More TESS observations are needed to determine the rate at which the newly discovered exoplanets are spiraling toward their host stars. NASA’s recently launched James Webb Space Telescope could also help identify the composition of the planets’ atmospheres and, in turn, where the planets formed and how they ended up in such a close-knit orbit around their parent star.

“The rapid star changes combined with the short orbital periods of these planets imply that these planets should be consumed by their host stars faster than almost any other known planet,” Grunblatt said during the press conference. “Further study of these systems could tell us how giant planets move throughout their lives, how that affects their smaller neighbors, and then blows them up during a ferocious death-dive into their host stars.”

Their findings have been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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