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Cosmos: tides cause planets to form 'rugby ball' shape

Cosmos: tides cause planets to form ‘rugby ball’ shape


In the constellation Hercules, planet WASP-103b orbits its parent star closely and in less than a day. As a result, tidal forces on an exoplanet are very strong – and distort it into a rugby ball. This discovery was made with the help of the Khufu Space Telescope.

According to the international research team, this is the first time that such a distortion has been detected in an exoplanet. The mass and radius of WASP-103b is about one and a half times the mass of Jupiter in our solar system.

An exoplanet orbits its star, which is about 200 degrees warmer than the sun, in just 22 hours. The orbit is about fifty times narrower than the Earth’s orbit around the sun. These orbital characteristics mean that the highs and lows caused by the tides are intense: forces pull on the planet so hard that its appearance is reminiscent of a rugby ball.

Similar to Jupiter

It was published in the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Results However, it allows not only to make conclusions about the strange shape of the planet, but also to glimpse its interior. Because based on the measurements, the researchers also provided an estimate of the so-called “Love Number” far.

With this parameter, astrophysicists can narrow down how an exoplanet is structured. Accordingly, the Love number for WASP-103b is comparable to that of Jupiter, indicating a similar internal structure regardless of the larger radius and stronger solar radiation.

However, the exact love number is still fraught with a lot of uncertainty. So the team hopes that observations using the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope will help narrow the value down better. According to the researchers, this will allow an unprecedented look inside this hot Jupiter and help to better understand these extreme systems.

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