A star about 100 light years away in the Pisces constellation, GJ 9827, hosts what may be one of the most massive and dense super-Earth planets detected to date according to new research led by Carnegie's Johanna Teske. This new information provides evidence to help astronomers better understand the process by which such planets form.
The GJ 9827 star actually hosts a trio of planets, discovered by NASA's exoplanet-hunting Kepler/K2 mission, and all three are slightly larger than Earth. This is the size that the Kepler mission determined to be most common in the galaxy with periods between a few and several-hundred-days.
Intriguingly, no planets of this size exist in our Solar System. This makes scientists curious about the conditions under which they form and evolve.
One important key to understanding a planet's history is to determine its composition. Are these super-Earths rocky like our own planet? Or do they have solid cores surrounded by large, gassy atmospheres?
To try to understand what an exoplanet is made of, scientists need to measure both its mass and its radius, which allows them to determine its bulk density.
When quantifying planets in this way, astronomers have noticed a trend. It ...