New ‘Puffy Planet’ With Styrofoam Like Density Found 320 Light Years Away

WASHINGTON: Researchers have discovered a new giant planet orbiting the extremely bright star 320 light years from Earth that has the density polystyrene foam.

This “swollen planet” outside the solar system may have the opportunity to test the atmospheres that will be useful in evaluating future planets for signs of life, the researchers said.

“It’s very swollen, so even if it’s only one-fifth more massive than Jupiter, it’s almost 40 percent bigger, it’s as dense as polystyrene foam, with a great atmosphere extraordinarily,” said Joshua Pepper, Assistant professor at Lehigh University in the USA.

Polystyrene foam is a type of expanded polystyrene used especially for the manufacture of food packaging.

“The host star of the planet is extremely bright, allowing accurate measurement of the properties of the planet’s atmosphere and what is an excellent test bench to measure the atmosphere of other planets,” Pepper said.

The planet, called KELT-11b, is an extreme version of a gaseous planet like Jupiter or Saturn, but it orbits around its star in an orbit that lasts less than five days.
The star, KELT-11, began using its nuclear fuel and becomes a red giant, so the planet will be swallowed by its star and will not survive the next hundred million years.

The KELT (Extremely Small Telescope) survey uses two small robotic telescopes, one in Arizona, the United States and one in South Africa. Telescopes digitize the sky from night to night, measuring the brightness of about five million stars.

“The KELT project is specifically designed to discover some scientifically valuable orbiting planets with very bright stars, and KELT-11b is a good example,” said Pepper.

The star, KELT-11, is the brightest in the southern hemisphere known to harbor a transit planet of more than one variable and the sixth-most transit host discovered to date.

While researchers are debating the cause of KELT-11b inflation, further study of the planet could provide additional information on the mechanism causing the inflammation of the planets, Pepper said.

The great atmosphere of the planet also offers good opportunities to develop the skills needed to identify chemicals to evaluate the habitability or products of life in the atmospheres of other planets.