Artist's impression of the new exoplanet in Proxima Centauri. Credit: L. Calçada / ESO

Alien world discovered by astronomers has mysteriously shrunk

A mysterious exoplanet discovered by expes has left them baffled after unexpectedly shrinking. the alien world dubbed TOI-332b has a high density and challenges current planetary theories.


A fresh find in the vastness of space is perplexing astronomers. Named TOI-332b, this enigmatic exoplanet, set far away from Earth, seems to defy the known laws of planetary formation. Its unique characteristics might provide clues as to why Neptune-like celestial bodies, in close orbits with their stars, are such a rare find.

Astrophysicist Ares Osborn, leading a team from the University of Warwick, revealed their intriguing discovery in a preprint on arXiv. Osborn’s research suggests TOI-332b could be instrumental in understanding the mysteries of the “Neptunian desert”—a term referring to the perplexing absence of Neptune-sized exoplanets in close orbits around their stars. Among the 5,500 exoplanets humanity has recognized, certain patterns have emerged, with the Neptunian desert being a glaring anomaly.


What Makes TOI-332b So Fascinating?

TOI-332b orbits an orange dwarf star, roughly 727 light-years away, and showcases a radius 3.2 times that of Earth. While this alone would merit attention, its density truly stands out—measuring a staggering 9.6 grams per cubic centimeter. To provide context, Earth’s density is 5.51 grams per cubic centimeter, while Neptune’s is a mere 1.64. This suggests that TOI-332b may consist predominantly of iron.


The Missing Atmosphere Puzzle

Existing models infer that TOI-332b likely has a colossal iron core, shielded by a rocky mantle, and capped with a hydrogen and helium atmosphere. Surprisingly, however, its atmosphere isn’t as thick as one might anticipate. Multiple theories have sprung forth to explain this. Could photoevaporation—where the planet’s close proximity to its star leads to atmospheric erosion—be the culprit? Alternatively, might a titanic collision with another celestial body have played a part, or did TOI-332b simply form without a substantial atmosphere?

TOI-332b presents a tantalizing puzzle for the scientific community. As the researchers aptly note, the planet tests our comprehension of celestial formation. They’re eager for additional observations that might unravel the mysteries of TOI-332b’s genesis and current state.

This groundbreaking research is slated for inclusion in the esteemed Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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