According to ESA experts, this is the first time an exoplanet deformation has been detected, which offers a new perspective on the internal structure of such planets that literally “hug” their stars. According to Space.com, the WASP-103 star system is more than 1,000 light-years away.
The planet known as WASP-103b is located in the constellation Hercules. The ultra-hot exoplanet, “Hot Jupiter,” is almost twice as large (and 1.5 times as massive) as the planet Jupiter in our solar system.
It was “deformed” by the strong tidal forces acting between the planet and its host star, WASP-103, which the planet will orbit in just one Earth day. The star is about 200 degrees warmer and 1.7 times larger than our Sun.
2/ The planet, known as WASP-103b, is almost twice the size of Jupiter with 1.5 times its mass, orbiting its host star WASP-103 in less than a day. #Cheops revealed that the #exoplanet has been deformed by the strong tidal forces between the planet and its host star. pic.twitter.com/9jkzgUAlrd
— ESA CHEOPS – Characterising Exoplanet Satellite (@ESA_CHEOPS) January 11, 2022
“It’s unbelievable that Cheops was really able to detect this small deformation,” said astronomer Jacques Laskar of the Paris Observatory, co-author of the research.
“This is the first time that such an analysis has been done, and we can only hope that observations over a longer period of time will strengthen this observation and lead to a better understanding of the planet’s internal structure,” he added.
Is he moving away from his star?
It also looks like the exoplanet is moving away from its star, although it should be closer due to gravitational attraction, the CNET server writes, referring to the scientists.
Why this is the case – and other findings – may come from future observations of the system, both with the help of the Cheops satellite and thanks to the work of the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
The planet WASP-103b itself was discovered in 2014. Many exoplanets were detected using the so-called transit method: measuring slight differences in emitted light or the apparent size of a star as the planet passes in front of it; of course when viewed from Earth.
Cheops works similarly, but uses the transit method to explore already discovered planets. Observing their transits mainly because it would clarify their size. So he is not looking for new worlds.
Scientists are currently using the new data, which they also connected with the older ones from the Hubble Telescope (operated by the American NASA and the European ESA) and the Spitzer Space Telescope, which NASA has already sent to the so-called retirement.
An article on the new discovery of the shape of the planet WASP-103b was also published by the professional magazine Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Searching for a new Earth
Astronomers observed the first exoplanets in 1995, and since then they have described about 5,000. In 2019, ESA launched the Cheops telescope into space. (formerly often stated in CHEOPS; abbreviation for the official name CHaracterizing ExOPlanets Satellite – editor’s note)which studies known exoplanets from Earth’s orbit.
ESA is also preparing a new Ariel research mission, which should bring further knowledge about planets circling outside the solar system. The new space telescope is expected to launch in 2029 and explore about a thousand exoplanets in four years.
According to the European Space Agency, the future mission could bring progress in the search for the existence of life in space, because it can lead to the discovery of other distant Earth-like planets.