A gigantic gas exoplanet has an unusually long orbit. Scientists have been studying the gas giant called GOT ‘EM-1b (which stands for Giant Outer Transiting Exoplanet Mass) that is approximately five times the mass of our own Solar System’s gas giant Jupiter.
GOT ‘EM-1b is located almost 1,300 light-years away from us and it was first witnessed back in 2010 by NASA’s Kepler space telescope when the exoplanet appeared in our “solar neighborhood”. Scientists were then able to determine its size as well as its orbit by using the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.
Astronomers also saw that a nearby star called Kepler-1514 had decreases in its brightness on occasion which suggested that there were possible planets orbiting it. After researchers from the University of California, Riverside confirmed the planet, they officially named it Kepler-1514b (instead of the original name of GOT ‘EM-1b).
While studying the exoplanet, they noticed that it had an incredibly long orbit of 218 days. According to a statement released by UC Riverside to Space.com, Paul Dalba, who is the astronomer that led the research, emphasized how unusual the orbit is, “Taking 218 days to orbit a star is an order of magnitude longer than most giant exoplanets we’ve measured.”
In fact, out of the thousands of exoplanets that Kepler has found so far, there are only a few dozen of them that have orbits lasting at least 200 days. (An artist’s impression of the star system with the gas giant can be seen here.)
Another interesting fact is that most giant planets are formed far away from their host star and then move inwards over time, however, that’s not what happened with Kepler-1514b as it has remained at the same distance.
By studying the orbit of that exoplanet, it may reveal more information about our own Solar System as Dalba stated, “This planet is like a stepping stone between the giant planets of our own solar system, which are very far from our sun, and other gas giants that are much closer to their stars.” For example, astronomers think that Jupiter may actually be protecting our planet from potentially harmful space objects.
“Giant planets far from their stars can help us answer age-old questions about whether our solar system is normal or not in its stability and development,” explained Stephen Kane, a UCR planetary astrophysicist who participated in the research. “We don’t know of many analogs to Jupiter and Saturn — it’s really hard to find those kinds of planets very far away, so this is exciting.”
More research needs to be conducted in regards to Kepler-1514b such as whether or not it has any moons orbiting it. Their research has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal and their paper can be read in full here.