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KELT-9b: ‘Gravity Darkening’ and an Asymmetric Light Curve

7 Jul 2020, 15:57 UTC
KELT-9b: ‘Gravity Darkening’ and an Asymmetric Light Curve
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Perhaps the hottest planet ever discovered spotlights yet another way to interpret light curves produced by transiting worlds. KELT-9b comes out of data gathered by the KELT transit survey, the acronym standing for Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope. KELT consists of two robotic telescopes, one at Winer Observatory in southeastern Arizona, the other at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, South Africa. The planet orbits an A-class star in Cygnus about 670 light years away and turned up in the KELT data in 2017.
We’ve learned a lot more about KELT-9b thanks to the TESS mission, allowing us to understand just how unusual this planet is. 2.9 times as massive as Jupiter, the world orbits its star in 36 hours, receiving 44,000 times the energy from its host that Earth receives from the Sun. Reaching 4,300 degrees Celsius, this is a tidally locked planet whose dayside is hotter than the surfaces of some stars. Its orbital path takes it almost directly above both the star’s poles.
But this mix gets even more intriguing. The primary, KELT-9, is roughly twice the size of the Sun, 56 percent hotter, and spins 38 times as fast. That makes for a complete stellar rotation ...

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