New exoplanet is missing link between Hot Jupiters and cool gas giants in Solar System | Science News

A cool gas giant exoplanet allows scientists to better understand planet formation.

Illustration of the TOI-2447 system with two gas giants. (Image Credit: Bing Image Creator/News9).

New Delhi: Scientists have discovered over 5,500 exoplanets, with most of these worlds being discovered through the transit method. Here stars are closely monitored for telltale dips of light as an exoplanet passes in front of it, from the vantage point of the Earth. The transit method favours the discovery of particularly large planets in orbits around small stars. Scientists were surprised when they started discovering Hot Jupiters, massive gas giants in close orbits around their host stars, unlike any planet within the Solar System.

These Hot Jupiters have extreme atmospheres, that can be inflated much like a hot air balloon. Because of the proximity to the stars, it can rain glass, iron or gemstones, sideways on these extreme worlds with high velocity winds zipping around the planet. Scientists initially believed that all star systems would have similar configurations as the Solar System, with the gas and ice giants occupying the outer Solar System, with the inner Solar System housing terrestrial worlds such as Mars, Earth and Venus. Scientists do not completely understand how Hot Jupiters are formed.

TOI-2447 b: The missing link

Now, scientists have discovered a missing link between Hot Jupiter exoplanets and the cold gas giants in the Solar System. TOI-2447 b is about the same size as Saturn, and orbits a Sun-like star at a distance of 490 lightyears from the Earth. TOI-2447 b orbits the host star once every 69 days, which is much slower than most known exoplanets, particularly Hot Jupiters, but much faster than Saturn, which takes 29 years to orbit the Sun.

The temperatures on TOI-2447 b are around 140°C, which is much cooler than the Hot Jupiters, some of which have surface temperatures in excess of stars. It is much warmer than the -180°C on Saturn. TOI-2447 b is a missing link between the gas giants in the Solar System, and the well-studied Hot Jupiters, and allows scientists to probe various theories of planet formation.

A second gas giant in the same system

The researchers found signs of at least one more giant exoplanet in the same system, orbiting the host star at a much greater distance than TOI-2447 b. Scientists believe that smaller planets are likely to exist within the same system, including terrestrial worlds that may have conditions conducive to life. Astronomers intend to conduct follow-up observations of TOI-2447 b with the James Webb Space Telescope.

A paper describing the findings has been put up on the Astrophysics Data System. Lead author of the study, Samuel Gill says, “These planets bridge the gap between the numerous well-studied planets around other stars that we have found to reside on orbits shorter than that of Mercury and planets more akin to the gas and ice giants in our own Solar System. 166700Next we will investigate the evolution of this exoplanet and how it got to its current position in its star system. We will also try to probe the chemical composition of its warm atmosphere with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).”

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