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The uncertainty of science: A newly discovered exoplanet, the size of Jupiter and orbiting a star half the size of the Sun, should not exist based on all the presently favored theories of planet formation.
New research, led by Dr Daniel Bayliss and Professor Peter Wheatley from the University of Warwick’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Group, has identified the unusual planet NGTS-1b – the largest planet compared to the size of its companion star ever discovered in the universe.
NGTS-1b is a gas giant six hundred light years away, the size of Jupiter, and orbits a small star with a radius and mass half that of our sun.
Its existence challenges theories of planet formation which state that a planet of this size could not be formed by such a small star. According to these theories, small stars can readily form rocky planets but do not gather enough material together to form Jupiter-sized planets. The planet is a hot Jupiter, at least as large as the Jupiter in our solar system, but with around 20% less mass. It is very close to its star – just 3% of the distance between Earth and the Sun – and orbits the star every 2.6 days, meaning a year on NGTS-1b lasts two and a half days.
No one should be surprised by this. While the present theories of planet formation are useful and necessary, giving scientists a rough framework for studying exoplanets, they should not be taken too seriously. We simply do not yet have enough information about how stars, solar systems, and planets form.