An astronomer and a group of eagle-eyed citizen scientists have discovered a giant gas planet hidden from view by typical stargazing tools.
The planet, TOI-2180 b, has the same diameter as Jupiter, but is nearly three times more massive. Researchers at UC Riverside also believe it contains 105 times the mass of Earth in elements heavier than helium and hydrogen. Nothing quite like it exists in our solar system.
“TOI-2180 b is such an exciting planet to have found,” said UCR astronomer Paul Dalba, who helped confirm the planet’s existence. “It hits the trifecta of 1) having a several-hundred-day orbit, 2) being relatively close to Earth (379 lightyears is considered close for an exoplanet), and 3) us being able to see it transit in front of its star. It is very rare for astronomers to discover a planet that checks all three of these boxes.”
Dalba also explained that the planet is special because it takes 261 days to complete a journey around its star, a relatively long time compared to many known gas giants outside our solar system. Its relative proximity to Earth and the brightness of the star it orbits also make it likely astronomers will be able to learn more about it.
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