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An Exposed Planetary Core at TOI-849

1 Jul 2020, 17:30 UTC
An Exposed Planetary Core at TOI-849
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In exoplanet research, ‘deserts’ are regions where things are not found. Thus the Neptunian Desert, which is a zone close to a star where planets of Neptune size only rarely appear. Deserts like this (there is also a Brown Dwarf Desert that we’ve examined in earlier posts) raise questions because we don’t know why they occur. What is it we don’t understand about planet formation that accounts for the lack of Neptune-mass planets in 2-4 day orbits?
Exceptions tweak our thinking, and do have NGTS-4b, a world 20 percent smaller than Neptune and 20 times as massive as Earth in a 1.3-day orbit around a K-dwarf (see Into the Neptunian Desert for more on this one, which is now joined by an even more puzzling object).
For today we learn of the discovery of a world of roughly Neptune’s mass with an orbital period of a scant 18 hours, and researchers reporting the discovery in Nature suggest that we are actually looking at a ‘failed’ gas giant, an exposed planetary core. We can thank TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) for the original data on this one, which is labeled TOI 849b. The object orbits a star much like ...

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