Sunday, August 15, 2021

Super-puffs, NASA's nickname for this trio of planets

In 2012, scientists discovered the solar-type star Kepler 51 and detected 3 planets in its orbit.  These planets are the same size as Jupiter, the largest in our Solar System, but have a mass similar to Earth's—meaning they're thin.  In fact, they are the planets with the lowest density ever seen.

 The result: big as Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system, but hundreds of times lighter.  They have the density of cotton candy.  The reason is the “bloated” atmosphere of the planets, composed mainly of helium and hydrogen.

 According to the group's studies, the low density of the planets is linked to the age of the system, which is still young: it is only 500 million years old.  For comparison, the Sun we orbit is approximately 4.6 billion years old, so indeed, Kepler 51 can be considered young.  The atmosphere of the “super cute” planets will evaporate over time, decreasing the cotton candy effect.

 However, the cuteness of at least one of them is likely to end in the next billion years.  The planets' low-density atmospheres should diminish, and the planet closest to the star should completely lose its fuzzy aura over time.

 Source: Young Nerd

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