New exoplanet discovered shouldn’t exist

Astronomers have discovered an extrasolar planet that may eventually collide into its sun, the planet, called WASP-18b, orbits its star in under one day, and is 10 times larger than Jupiter.

SuperWASP camera

SuperWASP camera

The planet’s name is derived from the group that discovered it, WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets).

Coel Hellier of Keele University led the group of researchers that discovered the planet. Their study of WASP-18b was published in the August 27 issue of the journal Nature.

Scientists had a 1 in 2,000 chance of discovering the planet. There are 300 identified extrasolar planets which orbit stars other than the Sun.

WASP-18b is notable for having an orbital period of less than one day, and is expected to eventually collide into its star. The planet is approximately 1.9 million miles from its star, which is approximately 325 light years from Earth.

Scientists at Keele and at the University of Maryland are working to understand why with its extremely close orbit it has not yet collided with its sun. The scientists expect to use the measurements over the next decade to answer the question.

The closest example of a similar mystery in our own solar system is Mars’ moon, Phobos. Phobos orbits Mars at a distance of only about 5,600 miles, 40 times closer than our moon is to the Earth.

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