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Astronomers discover scorching hot exoplanet heading for destruction

Harry Pettit, February 23, 2020 7:00PM The Sun

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An artist’s impression released in 2006 by the European Space Agency to explain the transit method of observing a planet. Like NGTS-10b, this is a Jupiter-sized planet passing in front of its parent star. media_cameraAn artist’s impression released in 2006 by the European Space Agency to explain the transit method of observing a planet. Like NGTS-10b, this is a Jupiter-sized planet passing in front of its parent star.

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Astronomers have discovered a scorching-hot planet where temperatures regularly hit 1000C.

The fiery world is around 1000 light-years* from Earth and will likely soon be destroyed when it spirals into its star or tidal* forces tear it apart.

Named NGTS-10b, it orbits so close to its star that a year there only lasts 18 hours.

Earth’s year is about 365 days because that’s how long it takes to orbit the Sun.

Scientists say the newly found exoplanet — a planet orbiting another star rather than our own Sun — is a “hot Jupiter”. This means it is a type of giant, gaseous world with blistering* surface temperatures.

“NGTS-10b is a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a star not too dissimilar* from our Sun,” said Dr James McCormac, of the University of Warwick, UK.

He added that the find, made using a group of telescopes in Chile known as the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), was a rare one.

“Of the hundreds of hot Jupiters currently known there are only seven that have an orbital period of less than one day,” Dr McCormac said.

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS  This handout picture released on August 11, 2011 by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows artist�s impression of the new planet. Astronomers have discovered the darkest known exoplanet � a distant, Jupiter-sized gas giant known as TrES-2b.  AFP PHOTO /Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics media_cameraAstronomers now know of hundreds of Jupiter-sized planets in the universe. This is an artist’s impression of another gas giant known as TrES-2b, shown here with two orbiting moons. Picture: AFP/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Astronomers spotted the new world using the transit* method.

This involves observing stars for a dip in brightness that indicates an unknown planet has passed in front of the star.

NGTS-10b caused more dips than usual, as it orbits its star in less than a day of Earth time.

Its 18-hour orbital period is the shortest ever observed for a hot Jupiter, scientists said.

The planet is moving so quickly because it is extremely close to its star – about 27 times nearer than Mercury is to the Sun.

The planet is likely tidally locked so one side is constantly facing its searing hot star.

As a result, astronomers estimate average temperatures on this side to be more than 1000C.

Scientists think it’s so close to its star that tidal forces will likely tear the planet apart very soon.

Alternatively, the doomed world could spiral into the star.

Researchers plan to continue watching the planet to find out what happens to it.

It’s hoped their work will help experts better understand the make-up of hot Jupiters.

Planet Jupiter. /Astronomy media_cameraGas giant Jupiter. NGTS-10b is a similar size to Jupiter but about 27 times nearer than Mercury is to the Sun.

Co-author Dr Daniel Bayliss said: “Over the next 10 years, it might be possible to see this planet spiralling in. That would tell us a lot about the structure of the planet that we don’t know yet.”

The research was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

This story was first published in The Sun and is republished here with permission.

GLOSSARY

  • light-years: distance that light travels in one year
  • tidal: relating to tides, caused by the gravitational pull of one object on another
  • blistering: so hot it causes blisters
  • not too dissimilar: similar
  • transit: the action of passing through a place

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How long does Earth take to orbit the Sun? How long does NGTS-10b take to orbit its Sun?
  2. How big is this planet?
  3. What is the transit method scientists used?
  4. Why is the planet moving so quickly?
  5. What could they see happen over the next 10 years?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Reporting from the future
There are some predictions in the article about what might happen to NGTS-10b in the future. Imagine that you are a news reporter in 10 years from now and one of the predictions about the planet has come true. Create a news report about the event.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

2. Extension
Work with a partner to create a model of NGTS-10b and its star. Include labels to show temperatures, distances, time periods and other information you think is important.

Time: allow up to 1 hour to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Personal and Social Capability

VCOP ACTIVITY
Synonym Sleuth
When you are writing to an audience, you really want them to imagine parts of the story. Choosing the best words to help explain things is important.

Instead of saying ‘hot’- or even ‘very hot’ over and over again, find all the different ways the article has described that the planet was hot.

Can you think of any other synonyms for hot that could also be used in the article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Give NGTS-10b a catchier name.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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