Just like Earth, most of the planets we know are shaped like spheres, with the exception of Jupiter, which has multiple rings around it. Nevertheless, Jupiter also appears as a sphere. But are all planets, including those outside our solar system, spherical? The answer is no, according to new research that says it’s legitimately possible that some planets might look like a potato. Researchers have discovered a planet called WASP-103b, about 1,500 light-years from Earth, which they believe is shaped more like a potato or a rugby ball.
But why is it so oddly shaped? Astronomers say WASP-103b orbits 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 host star is responsible for its unusual shape.
The study, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, states that WASP-103b is just 20,000 miles from its host star and could be causing tidal stresses to shape it into an unlikely shape. In comparison, the distance between Earth and its home star, the Sun, is about 93 million miles.
It takes the earth a year to orbit the sun, and other planets in the solar system also take at least a few months or several years to complete one revolution of the sun. However, there are some exoplanets known as “hot Jupiters” that orbit their host stars in a matter of days and hours. The orbital period of WASP-103b is only 22 hours.
“It’s incredible that Cheops was actually able to reveal this tiny deformation,” Jacques Laskar, a co-author of the research, said in a statement.
The researchers used ESA’s CHEOPS satellite and relied on data from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes to reach the conclusion about the shape of a WASP-103b rugby ball.
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