An Exoplanet as Light as Styrofoam!

An artist's impression of the recently discovered 'Styrofoam planet' - Image credit: Walter Robinson, Lehigh University.

An artist's impression of the recently discovered 'Styrofoam planet' - Image credit: Walter Robinson, Lehigh University.

A group of scientists from Leihigh University has discovered a new fascinating exoplanet (KELT-11b) with a density comparable to that of Styrofoam.

The star that harbors the orbiting exoplanet in question here (HD 93396) is at a distance of 320 lightyears from Earth and is in the process of transforming into a red giant as its nuclear fuel is running out. This means that the KELT-11b will likely not survive its next 100 million years as it will be eaten up by the expanding ancient star.

A year for KELT-11b takes less than 5 earth days. Researchers stated that hey where very surprised by the extreme size of the planet. Its puffy quality makes it 40% larger than Jupiter while it is about 5 times less massive than said gas giant. Because of the fact that the host star HD 93396 is so incredibly bright, it is relatively easy to analyze the atmosphere of KELT-11b.

New telescopes will be deployed in the next 10 years which will give us the capability to analyze the atmospheres of  more and more exoplanets. It will teach us more about the genesis of exoplanets as well as the possibilities for hosting alien life. Currently astronomers are only capable of analyzing the atmospheres of major gas giants, but in the future analysis of smaller gas giants and eventually even terrestrial planets might become part of the realm of possibilities.

KELT-11b was discovered by use of the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope. (hence the name KELT-11B). KELT is composed of two small robotic telesopes, KELT-North located in Arizona and KELT-South located in South Africa. Because of the fact that the telescopes are positioned in both hemispheres the KELT team is capable of complete coverage of the sky over the course of a year.

Kudo’s to the KELT team, we really can’t wait for more discoveries like this!

Source: The Astronomical Journal / Astrobites


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