A Jupiter-like exoplanet that was hidden within data from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has been discovered by citizen scientists and professional astronomers.
Known as TOI-2180 b, the giant gas planet is located approximately 379 light-years away from us. It has a mass that is almost three times greater than Jupiter (2.755 times) but with the same diameter, which means that it is a lot denser than Jupiter. It orbits a G-type star that has about the same mass as our sun. It takes TOI-2180 b a total of 261 days to complete a full orbit around its host star – it orbits at a distance of 0.828 AU (one AU is the distance that Earth is to the sun).
While the gas giants in our Solar System are located much further from the sun compared to where TOI-2180 b orbits its star, its location is actually quite common as astronomers have so far discovered dozens of exoplanets that are larger than Jupiter that orbit their host stars at a pretty close distance – some of them even have an orbit that is closer than where Mercury is to our sun.
The interior of TOI-2180 b is quite interesting as computer models have revealed that this newfound planet may contain a massive amount of elements that are heavier than helium and hydrogen – as many as 105 Earth masses worth of elements. “That’s more than what we suspect is inside Jupiter,” said astronomer Paul Dalba from the University of California, Riverside.
Another interesting and quite unusual feature about TOI-2180 b is that it has an average temperature of approximately 170 degrees Fahrenheit (77 degrees Celsius). Despite being much warmer than Jupiter and Saturn (Jupiter has an average temperature of -238 degrees Fahrenheit and Saturn’s average temperature is -285 degrees Fahrenheit), it is actually rather chilly compared to other giant exoplanets. “It's a nice stepping stone in between most giant exoplanets we’ve found, and then really cold Jupiter and Saturn,” Dalba stated.
TESS should be able to observe the planet transiting in front of its star again next month, so the researchers will hopefully be able to gather even more information. And now with the recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, further analysis of TOI-2180 b may also be possible. Until then, an illustration of the planet can be seen here.
The study was published in the Astronomical Journal where it can be read in full.