New Planet Is as Dense as Styrofoam

Science and Children, Summer 2017 | Go to article overview

New Planet Is as Dense as Styrofoam


Researchers have discovered a new planet orbiting a star 320 light years from Earth that has the density of styrofoam.

This "puffy planet" is 40% larger than Jupiter but only a fifth as massive, which makes it as dense as Styrofoam, says Joshua Pepper, lead author of the study. The planet, called KELT-11b, is an extreme version of a gas planet, like Jupiter or Saturn, but is orbiting very close to its host star in an orbit that lasts less than five days. The star, KELT-11, has started using up its nuclear fuel and is evolving into a red giant, so the planet will be engulfed by its star and not survive the next hundred million years.

KELT-11 is the brightest in the southern hemisphere known to host a transiting planet by more than a magnitude and the sixth brightest transit host discovered to date. Located in the southern sky, the "extraordinarily inflated" KELT-11b is the third-lowest density planet that has been discovered.

"We were very surprised by the amazingly low density of this planet," Pepper says. …

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