Two groups of astronomers working independently in Germany have discovered a massive new exoplanet that’s quite strange–for a few reasons.
The newfound exoplanet, dubbed Kepler-432b, was monitored by NASA’s Kepler space telescope from 2009 to 2013 and identified as a planetary candidate in 2011. Using the 2.2-meter telescope at Calar Alto Observatory in Andalucía, Spain and the Nordic Optical Telescope on La Palma in the Canary Islands, the researchers are now confirming that, indeed, it’s a planet.
Analyzing the data from both telescopes, the researchers discovered Kepler-432b is incredibly dense; though it’s around the same size as Jupiter, its mass is six times that of the gas giant. Its orbit around its host star, a red giant with a radius that’s four times that of our Sun, is also unusual.
“The majority of known planets moving around giant stars have large and circular orbits,” Dr. Davide Gandolfi, an astronomer at Heidelberg University’s Center for Astronomy in Germany and a researcher involved in the discovery, said in a written statement. “With its small and highly elongated orbit, Kepler-432b is a real ‘maverick’ among planets of this type.”
Due to the orbit’s elongated shape, Kepler-432b’s seasons are extreme, with temperatures ranging from 932 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. A year on the planet corresponds to roughly 52 Earth days, according to the researchers… see more