Once in space in 2018, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will be observing, among many other things, hundreds of thousands of red giant stars across the entire sky. Planets around red giants are an interesting topic, because such stars point to an evolutionary outcome our own Sun will share, and we’d like to know more about what happens to existing planets in such systems as the host star swells and reddens, engulfing inner worlds.
New work out of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy now examines two ‘hot Jupiters’ around red giants, stellar systems where we see the gas giants swelling up as the result of processes that remain controversial. The inflated size of planets like these can be explained in at least two ways, one of which involves a slowing of the cooling in the planet’s atmosphere, which causes the planet to inflate soon after formation. But the data presented here, drawn from NASA’s K2 mission, tend to corroborate the thinking of co-author Eric Lopez (NASA GSFC) that direct energy input from the host star is the dominant cause of this planetary inflation.
Image: Upper left: Schematic of the K2-132 system on the main sequence.