'Monster' planet discovery challenges formation theory

October 31, 2017, Royal Astronomical Society
Artist’s impression of the cool red star and gas-giant planet NGTS-1b against the Milky Way. Credit: University of Warwick/Mark Garlick

A giant planet, which should not exist according to planet formation theory, has been discovered around a distant star. The new research is presented in a paper recently accepted for publication in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The existence of the 'monster' planet, NGTS-1b, challenges theories of which state that a planet of this size could not be formed around such a small star. According to these theories, small can readily form but do not gather enough material together to form Jupiter-sized .

NGTS-1b however, is a gas giant—due to its size and temperature, the planet is known as a 'hot Jupiter," a class of planets that are at least as large as our solar system's very own Jupiter, but with around 20 percent less mass. Unlike Jupiter however, NGTS-1b is very close to its star – just 3 percent of the distance between Earth and the Sun, and completes an orbit every 2.6 days, meaning a year on NGTS-1b lasts two and a half Earth days.

In contrast, the host star is small, with a radius and mass half that of our sun. Professor Peter Wheatley from the University of Warwick commented on the complications this introduced: "Despite being a monster of a planet, NGTS-1b was difficult to find because its parent star is so small and faint." He went on to explain the significance of the discovery given the challenging circumstances "small stars like this red M-dwarf are actually the most common in the universe, so it is possible that there are many of these giant planets waiting to found."

Artist’s impression of the cool red star above NGTS-1b Credit: University of Warwick/Mark Garlick

NGTS-1b is the first planet to be spotted by The Next-Generation Transit Survey (or "NGTS') which employs an array of 12 telescopes to scour the sky. The researchers made their discovery by continually monitoring patches of the night sky over many months, and detecting red light from the star with innovative red-sensitive cameras. They noticed dips in the light from the star every 2.6 days, implying that a planet was orbiting and periodically blocking the starlight.

Using these data, they then tracked the planet's orbit and calculated the size, position and mass of NGTS-1b by measuring the radial velocity of the star. In fact, this method, measuring how much the star 'wobbles' due to the gravitational tug from the planet, was the best way of measuring NGTS-1b's size.

Dr Daniel Bayliss, lead author of the study, also from the University of Warwick, commented "The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us—such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars – importantly, our challenge now is to find out how common these types of planets are in the Galaxy, and with the new Next-Generation Transit Survey facility we are well-placed to do just that."

NGTS is situated at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in the heart of the Atacama Desert, Chile, but is one of very few facilities to be run by external parties—UK Universities Warwick, Leicester, Cambridge, and Queen's University Belfast are involved, together with Observatoire de Genève, DLR Berlin and Universidad de Chile.

Professor Peter Wheatley leads NGTS, and was pleased to see these exciting results: "Having worked for almost a decade to develop the NGTS telescope array, it is thrilling to see it picking out new and unexpected types of planets. I'm looking forward to seeing what other kinds of exciting new planets we can turn up."

Explore further: New exoplanet-hunting telescopes on Paranal

More information: NGTS-1b: A hot Jupiter transiting an M-dwarf. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. arxiv.org/pdf/1710.11099.pdf

Related Stories

New exoplanet-hunting telescopes on Paranal

January 14, 2015

The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) has achieved first light at ESO's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. This project will search for transiting exoplanets—planets that pass in front of their parent star and hence ...

Hunting transiting exoplanets

March 2, 2015

European Southern Observatory (ESO) gears up for the exoplanet hunting. The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), a wide-field observing system made up of an array of twelve telescopes was installed at ESO's Paranal Observatory ...

Team in breakthrough research to discover new planets

January 14, 2015

Scientists from Queen's University Belfast have partnered with leading astrophysicists across Europe for a ground-breaking space research project that will form a crucial step in the quest to study small, rocky planets orbiting ...

New exoplanet too big for its stars

May 1, 2015

The Australian discovery of a strange exoplanet orbiting a small cool star 500 light years away is challenging ideas about how planets form.

Recommended for you

APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness

May 25, 2018

The 12 m radio telescope APEX in Chile has been outfitted with special equipment including broad bandwidth recorders and a stable hydrogen maser clock for performing joint interferometric observations with other telescopes ...

Ancient meteorite tells tales of Mars topography

May 24, 2018

By looking at an ancient Martian meteorite that landed in the Sahara Desert, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists and collaborators have determined how and when the red planet's crustal topographic and ...

19 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rrwillsj
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 31, 2017
Just because some respected authority once suggested that perhaps small stars can only have small planets. Doesn't make that guess gospel, written in stone.

The evidence continues that this Universe is a lot more chaotic and driven by the Uncertainty Principle than we little monkeys are willing to concede.

Perhaps it is accurate to say that small stars usually produce small planets (super-jupiter or smaller) in an amazing array of varieties and abundance and orbital configurations.

In my opinion there are no orderly 'rules' for us to dictate at the cosmos. Understanding and knowledge does not give us the power to organize this mishmash of reality.

However, that scale has to allow for the outliers. Many of the smaller stars may never produce anything larger than asteroids or just dust. And, on the other end of the scale, there will be super-sized, super-duper jupiters.

Only time and methodical research will enable us to census their population.

danR
5 / 5 (3) Oct 31, 2017
I don't see the problem if we regard it not as a planetary system, but a failed binary star.
mindstorm
5 / 5 (3) Oct 31, 2017
I don't see the problem if we regard it not as a planetary system, but a failed binary star.

exactly what i was thinking
tblakely1357
not rated yet Oct 31, 2017
The more x-planets they discover the more unique our solar system is. Have they found any systems that looks like our own?
Nik_2213
not rated yet Oct 31, 2017
Is another possibility that it was a triple, but ejected the smallest due orbital resonance ?
wduckss
1 / 5 (3) Oct 31, 2017
Here is the problem of body velocity on orbit. Gravity does not provide such a fast orbit to the star of the M tip. Central facility has a slow rotation, according to the temperature of ~ 3916 ° K. . Radius 0.573 R Sun / mass 0.617 M Sun points to the opposite. Eccentricity 0.016 shows that the body is in orbit for a long period of time. I suppose the measurements are incomplete. (http://exoplanet....ts-1_b/)
Solon
1 / 5 (6) Oct 31, 2017
They noticed dips in the light from the star every 2.6 days, implying that a planet was orbiting and periodically blocking the starlight.

Another one of these short orbit planets eh? They are detecting a planet and moon here, not a star and planet.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (7) Oct 31, 2017
Just because some respected authority once suggested that perhaps small stars can only have small planets. Doesn't make that guess gospel, written in stone.

The speculation of planetary formation is based upon maths equations, this is a clear case where maths only matter when it supports your beliefs.
what_the_hell
not rated yet Nov 01, 2017
Could it be an old star? What if this gas giant was once the distance of Jupiter from our sun, and has since then spiraled closer to its sun?
physman
5 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2017
@Solon Short orbit planets are far easier to discover, as described in the (very first paragraph of) the paper:

"The interest primarily derives from the fact that the radius ratio and mass ratio for such systems are much higher than equivalent systems with solar-type hosts, thus they can be easier to detect via transits and radial velocities."

Quite hard to detect a slow moving / far orbiting exoplanet as there is no clear dip in starlight.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (4) Nov 01, 2017
They noticed dips in the light from the star every 2.6 days, implying that a planet was orbiting and periodically blocking the starlight.

Another one of these short orbit planets eh? They are detecting a planet and moon here, not a star and planet.


Lol. And what is causing the planet to shine like a star?
jonesdave
5 / 5 (4) Nov 01, 2017
Just because some respected authority once suggested that perhaps small stars can only have small planets. Doesn't make that guess gospel, written in stone.

The speculation of planetary formation is based upon maths equations, this is a clear case where maths only matter when it supports your beliefs.


https://upload.wi...disk.jpg
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2017
jd, you certainly have a valid criticism of my comment about 'respected authority'.

However, I would argue that 'respected authority' and their math was accepted as proof that other star systems have to be organized the same as our Solar System.

Yet continuous advancement in instrumentation has been accumulating evidence that the stability and habitability of our Solar System is unusual and possibly very rare.

I also argue that it is simply random chance. Somebody has to be the outlier of stability in what is basically a chaotic universe. And here we are. What can I tell you but accidents happen!

Perhaps over the next few hundred billion years, there will be more opportunities for life-bearing worlds in future stable systems. Perhaps.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2017
jd, you certainly have a valid criticism of my comment about 'respected authority'.

TBF, I was actually replying to CD re his 'maths' claims. The fact that we see protoplanetary disks shows that the theory is obviously not too far off the mark. The devil is always in the details, though.
neiorah
1 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2017
Humans know nothing about how any of the universe came about if they rely on chance. It is stupid of them to think that they will ever understand the way the universe works.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2017
Humans know nothing about how any of the universe came about if they rely on chance. It is stupid of them to think that they will ever understand the way the universe works.


Yep, that added a whole lot to the discussion. Thank you so much.
Solon
1 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2017
jd
"Lol. And what is causing the planet to shine like a star?"

Emissions due to ionisation of the planets atmosphere by cosmic rays? Show me proof that Proxima Centauri is a star and then I'll consider that other objects out there may also be stars.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (3) Nov 01, 2017
Just because some respected authority once suggested that perhaps small stars can only have small planets. Doesn't make that guess gospel, written in stone.


The speculation of planetary formation is based upon maths equations, this is a clear case where maths only matter when it supports your beliefs.


https://upload.wi...disk.jpg

What a pretty picture, that only through your own confirmation bias shows "proof" that it is a protoplanetary disc. It could just as easily be the remnants of a planetary system, a stellar ring system similar to Saturn's, or something altogether different. As you have said before, just because it looks like a duck don't mean it is a duck. At least the speculation of stellar Z-pinches is based on real observed phenomena of Z-pinches in labs which actually do exist. All you got is fanciful pontifications of the plasma ignoramuses.
mackita
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2017
This discovery has its dual counterpart in a recent observation of distant black holes, which are too large for being able to form by accretion under mainstream Big Bang cosmological model. Compare also recent hypothesis, that planets like earth may have had muddy origins I think that first planets condensed from dust and interstellar clouds in way larger extent, than the planetesimal theory considers (a similar conceptual shift from "merger mania" we can perceive in "top-to-bottom" theories of galactic formation recently).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.