Astronomers discover a planet that looks like a rugby ball

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Much like Earth, most of the planets we know are shaped like orbs, with the exception of Jupiter, which is surrounded by several rings. Yet Jupiter also appears as a globe. But do all planets, including those outside our solar system, have a spherical shape? The answer is no, according to a new research paper, which says it’s justifiably possible that some planets look like a potato. Researchers have discovered a planet, named WASP-103b, some 1,500 light-years from Earth, which they say is shaped more like a potato or a rugby ball.

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But why does it have such a weird shape? Astronomers say WASP-103b is located around an F-type star, larger and more massive than our Sun. The planet is also large – about one and a half times the size of Jupiter. However, the planet’s relatively close proximity to its home star is responsible for its unusual shape.

Published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, the study says WASP-103b is only 20,000 miles from its home star and that could lead to tidal stresses to shape it into an unlikely shape. By comparison, the distance between Earth and its native star, the Sun, is about 93 million miles.

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The Earth takes a year to orbit the Sun and the other planets of the solar system also take at least a few months or several years to complete one revolution of the Sun. However, there are exoplanets, known as “hot Jupiters”, that orbit their home stars within days and hours. The orbital period of WASP-103b is only 22 hours.

“It’s amazing that Cheops was able to reveal this tiny deformity,” Jacques Laskar, co-author of the research, said in a statement.

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The researchers used ESA’s CHEOPS satellite and relied on data from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to reach the conclusion about WASP-103b’s rugby ball shape.


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