Discovery of an Exceptionally Dense Neptune-sized World Challenges Established Theories
Harnessing the power of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a global consortium of space scientists stumbled upon an intriguing exoplanet, named TOI-332 b. Remarkably, this celestial body ranks among the densest Neptune-sized exoplanets identified so far.
With its eyes set on roughly 200,000 luminous stars near our sun, TESS’s main objective is detecting exoplanets making their transit. Out of the impressive 6,800 potential exoplanets or TESS Objects of Interest (TOI) pinpointed, and 379 have received confirmation.
The Latest Addition
Under Ares Osborn’s guidance from the University of Warwick, UK, the team authenticated another intriguing TOI observed by TESS. They spotted a transit signal linked to a K-dwarf star, namely TOI-332, and corroborated the planetary nature of this signal through comprehensive ground-based evaluations.
Researchers chronicled, “The TOI-332 system was documented during TESS’s Sectors 1 and 2 ventures, offering insights through full-frame images.”
The newly-identified TOI-332 b flaunts a radius approximately 3.2 times that of Earth. With a staggering mass of 57.2 Earth masses, its density reaches an astounding 9.6 g/cm3. This exoplanet completes its orbit in a mere 18.65 hours, situating itself just 0.016 AU from its star. The scientists calculated its equilibrium temperature to be a scorching 1,871 K.
Challenging Known Parameters
The researchers cataloged TOI-332 b as an ultra-short period Neptune-sized exoplanet, positioning it in the seldom-encountered “Neptunian desert.” This term refers to a specific region where the discovery of planets remains rare—those with dimensions between 2 and 9 Earth radii, masses stretching from 10 to 250 Earth masses, and brief orbital spans of less than five days.
Diving deeper into TOI-332 b’s core, the team believes its composition leans more towards refractory materials, akin to terrestrial planets, and likely holds a minimal hydrogen-helium envelope. This poses intriguing queries to the foundational theories of planetary genesis.
The researchers expressed, “The enigmatic nature of this planet challenges our existing comprehension of planetary formation. The presence of such a dominant core devoid of a gaseous layer remains an enigma.”
As for TOI-332, this K0V spectral type star is approximately five billion years in age. Located a staggering 726.5 light years from our home planet, it’s marginally smaller than our sun, boasting an effective temperature of 5,251 K.
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