An international collaboration of researchers found a monster planet orbiting a tiny star. So, astronomers might rethink their theories of how planets form.

This monster planet, known as NGTS-1b, is the size of Jupiter. It orbits an ultracool dwarf star half the size of the sun.

The planet NGTS-1b lies 600 light-years from our solar system. It is a gas giant, just like Jupiter.

The planet orbits its star at 3 percent the distance from the Earth to the sun. It makes a full orbit every 2.6 Earth days. The monster planet has a surface temperature of around 530°C.

However, the new discovery contradicts some of the predictions that scientists made about how the planets form. The ratio between the star and the planet is the most unusual ever discovered.

“The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us. Such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars,” said Dr. Daniel Bayliss, from the University of Warwick, who led the team of astronomers.

He continued… “This is the first exoplanet we have found with our new NGTS facility, and we are already challenging the received wisdom of how planets form.”

Finding NGTS-1b

An international collaboration of researchers found the planet using the Next-Generation Transit Survey. It is an array of 12 telescopes at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Employees designed it to search for exoplanets passing in front of their parent stars.

To find NGTS-1b, the Next-Generation Transit Survey monitored certain spots in the sky for months. They used red-sensitive cameras to catch any changes in brightness to stars in its field of view. Researchers saw the particular M-dwarf dipping in brightness every 2.6 days, suggesting it had a planetary companion. Then, they confirmed the planet’s gargantuan size by measuring its radial velocity — how much the star “wobbles” during each orbit from its companion’s gravitational pull.

“NGTS-1b was difficult to find, despite being a monster of a planet, because its parent star is small and faint,” Professor Peter Wheatley from the University of Warwick, who heads the NGTS, said in a statement.

Going forward, the researchers hope to find other monster planets orbiting dwarf stars. Thus, being able to support their findings. Also, they will have to come up with an explanation as to how they can even exist in the first place.


Thumbnail Image: The giant planet orbiting its tiny Star. Credit: University of Warwick