Once again, we’re witnessing a premiere in science. Astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have discovered something unique located at approximately 260 light-years away from Earth. A new type of alien world is unveiled, and it’s the first known “ultrahot Neptune.”
The sunlike star known as LTT 9779 is the spot targeted, and followup observations after the ones made by TESS confirmed the existence of the exoplanet and ‘ultrahot Neptune’ known as LTT 9779 b.
29 times Earth’s mass and 4.7 times Earth’s diameter
Besides its huge size, LTT 9779 b is even hotter than Venus, the hellish nightmare of our solar system. The exoplanet’s surface boils at a staggering 1,700 degrees Celsius, and there’s no wonder why: LTT 9779 b orbits its host star once every 19 hours. This means that the exoplanet is extremely close to its star – by comparison, our Earth needs 8760 hours for a full rotation around the Sun.
In fact, the newfound exoplanet is so hot that its temperatures can break molecules down to their constituent elements and even ionize metals from the atmosphere. The lead author of the new study, astronomer James Jenkins from the University of Chile in Las Condes, says that the planet’s atmosphere can be very different from just ‘hot’ planets.
The atmosphere of LTT 9779 b captured the astronomers’ attention, as Jenkins and his colleagues aim to analyze the light passing through the planet’s atmosphere “to search for what elements are in the atmosphere, what the temperature is around the planet, does the planet have clouds,”
Unfortunately, it’s impossible for the moment to travel 260 light-years within a human lifetime, although the temperatures from the LTT 9779 b exoplanet make Venus look like harmless fireworks.
The findings were detailed online in the journal Nature Astronomy.