Astronomers Discover Potato-Shaped Planet 1,500 Light-Years Away From Earth

The planet, WASP-103b, has a unique shape due to its proximity to its host star.

Astronomers Discover Potato-Shaped Planet 1,500 Light-Years Away From Earth

Photo Credit: ESA

Artist's impression of planet WASP-103b and its host star

Highlights
  • WASP-103b is located very close to an F-type star
  • WASP-103b is only 20,000 miles away from its host star
  • Earth is 93 million miles away from its host star, the Sun

Just like Earth, most planets we know of are shaped like orbs, except Jupiter, which has several rings around it. Still, Jupiter too appears like a globe. But do all planets, including those outside our solar system, have a spherical shape? The answer is no, as per a new research paper., which says it is rightly possible that some planets might look like a potato. Researchers have discovered a planet, named WASP-103b, some 1,500 light-years away from Earth, which they say is shaped more like a potato or a rugby ball.

But why is it shaped this weird? Astronomers say WASP-103b is located around an F-type star, larger and more massive than our Sun. The planet too is large — about one-and-a-half times the size of Jupiter. However, the planet's relatively close proximity to its home star is responsible for its unusual shape.

Published in the Astronomy and Astrophysics journal, the study said WASP-103b is only 20,000 miles away from its home star and this could cause tidal stresses to pull it into an unlikely shape. In comparison, the distance between Earth and its home star Sun is about 93 million miles.

The Earth takes a year to orbit the Sun and other planets in the Solar System, too, take at least a few months or several years to complete one revolution of the Sun. However, there are some exoplanets, known as "hot jupiters," which orbit their home stars in a matter of days and hours. The orbital period of WASP-103b is just 22 hours.

“It's incredible that Cheops was actually able to reveal this tiny deformation,” Jacques Laskar, a co-author of the research, said in a statement.

The researchers used ESA's CHEOPS satellite and relied on data from NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to reach the conclusion about WASP-103b's rugby ball shape.


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Further reading: Astronomers, Exoplanets, ESA, WASP 103b
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