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Ohio State and Vanderbilt astronomers have discovered a super-hot planet that is pushing the limits of what defines planets.
How hot is the Jupiter-like gas giant scientists are calling KELT-9b? Hotter than most stars, at more than 7,800 degrees.
The planet, where a year lasts what we consider 1.5 days, is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane cannot form.
"It's a planet by any of the typical definitions based on mass," Scott Gaudi, an OSU astronomer and a leader of the study, said in a release. "But its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we've ever seen just because of the temperature of its day side."
Extreme radiation and heat perpetually shine on KELT-9b from its host star, causing the planet to puff up like a balloon from gases. The high levels of ultraviolet radiation bombarding the planet might also cause it to sport a tail similar to a comet.
This gas giant is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense.
While the discovery of KELT-9b is giving scientists a look into planetary extremes, Keivan Stassun, professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt who led the study with Gaudi, said in the release that the likelihood this planet could host humans is low.
"The long-term prospects for life, or real estate for that matter, on KELT-9b are not looking good," Stassun said.
Gaudi and Stassun hope to investigate KELT-9b more closely using other telescopes, like the Hubble Space Telescope, to determine how much longer the planet can survive under its current conditions.
The work is being published this week in the journal Nature and was presented on Monday at the American Astronomical Society spring meeting.