New Space Telescope Shows Alien Planet's Bizarre Behavior

Thanks to the ESA's Cheops space telescope, scientists can now see the strange features of exoplanet WASP-189b and its blue star

    2020/10/07

NSFW    TORREJÓN DE ARDOZ, SPAIN — Since its launch in December 2019, Europe's Cheops space telescope has gathered some very interesting information about a very strange planet, far outside our solar system. The Cheops space telescope is basically a satellite that orbits 700km above earth, and it's packed with sensitive optical equipment.

The first extra-solar planet that Cheops has focused on is called WASP-189b. This planet was first detected in 2018. It's a gas giant like Jupiter and it's situated 322 light-years away. That's more than 3000 trillion kilometers from earth.

Cheops found that WASP-189b is about 22,400 kilometers in diameter. That's almost 18 times larger than Earth, and 1,6 times larger than Jupiter. At the same time, this large planet orbits much closer to its star. Where it takes Earth 365 days to orbit our sun, this faraway planet takes only 2,7 Earth days to orbit its huge star.

The star around which this exo-planet orbits is bigger and hotter than Earth's sun. In fact, this star burns so hot that it looks blue. It is 2,4 times bigger and 2000 degrees Celsius hotter than Earth's sun.

Cheops also found that the exo-planet's blue star is visibly wider around its equator. That's because it spins so fast that it's being pulled to the outside around its equator. So, the star looks a bit oval. The star's poles are also hotter than its cooler equator.

Now add the fact that WASP-189b orbits 20 times closer to its hot star than Earth orbits to our cooler sun, and you can understand why the exo-planet is so incredibly hot. At a surface temperature of 3200 degrees Celsius, even iron turns to gas on this planet. That's why scientists call it an "ultra-hot Jupiter". Hot Jupiters are giant gas planets like Jupiter, but they orbit very close to their stars, making them extremely hot.

Another thing that makes this exo-planet very different from the planets in our solar system, is the fact that it does not rotate around its star's equator. Instead, its orbit is so extremely tilted that it passes close to the star's poles. Scientists think this must be because the gravity of other planets or stars pulled the planet into its strange orbit.
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