Stunning 'Monster' Planet Discovery Puts Key Theory in Doubt


Scientists previously theorized that small stars could form rocky planets, but it was believed that they lacked sufficient matter to form planets the size of Jupiter. Until now, at least.

The existence of NGTS-1b, located about 600 light years away from Earth, challenges theories of planet formation which hold that a planet of this size-about the same as Jupiter- couldn't be formed by a small star only half the size of the sun.

"Despite being a monster of a planet, NGTS-1b was hard to find because its parent star is so small and faint", said professor Peter Wheatley from the University of Warwick. It appeared to be a star with a planet-no longer an unusual discovery by itself-but to their surprise, the red dwarf, half the mass of the Sun, has a gas giant the size of Jupiter going around it.

"Despite being a monster of a planet, NGTS-1b was hard to find because its parent star is so small and faint", Peter Wheatley, professor at the University of Warwick, said in a news release.

According to current theories of the formation of planets around small stars may only form a small planet.

"Our challenge is to now find out how common these types of planets are in the galaxy, and with the new NGTS facility we are well-placed to do just that". That host star is an M dwarf, a type of red dwarf star that is small and cool compared to average stars like our sun.

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"NGTS-1b was hard to find, despite being a monster of a planet, because its parent star is small and faint", he said. This is the first exoplanet we have found with our new NGTS facility, " Bayliss continued, "and we are already challenging the received wisdom of how planets form".

NGTS-1b is the first planet spotted by the Next-Generation Transit Survey, which searches the sky with an array of 12 telescopes located in northern Chile. The planet is about the same size as Jupiter, but with 20 percent less mass. They noticed dips in the light from the star every 2.6 days, implying that a planet was orbiting and periodically blocking starlight. Some astronomers are wondering after discovering a "monster of a planet" planet orbiting an unusually small star.

To make it even odder, NGTS-1b orbits extremely close to its sun.

According to the lead NGTS scientist Professor Peter Wheatley, red M-dwarf stars are small and faint, but are the most common stars in the universe, which means more monster planets like NGTS-1b could be out there, just waiting to be discovered. However, a new discovery may just change that perception.

"Having worked for nearly a decade to develop the NGTS telescope array, it is thrilling to see it picking out new and unexpected types of planets", added Prof.