Minineptune raised doubts about planet formation theory

(ORDO NEWS) — A new observation of exoplanet K2-25b tells scientists that the generally accepted theory of planet formation may be questioned. They noticed that this young planet is very dense for its size and age.

The new data was obtained using the WIYN and APO telescopes. Although initially information about the exoplanet was collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

This planet is slightly smaller than Neptune, and is located in the Hyades star cluster, 150 light-years from Earth. The age of the system where the planet is located is approximately 600 million years.

It is believed that giant planets form by first collecting a small core of stone and ice, 5-10 times the mass of the Earth, and then enveloping themselves in a massive shell of gas, hundreds of times the mass of the Earth. The result is a Jupiter-like gas giant. But K2-25b breaks those rules. With a mass 25 times the mass of the Earth, K2-25b – consists of almost one core and a small gaseous envelope. Scientists say that this exoplanet, while smaller than Neptune, has a weight of 1.5 times more.

Therefore, this discovery raises the question of how K2-25b could collect such a large core, and how, with such a strong gravitational pull, the planet managed to avoid the accumulation of a significant shell of gas.

“This is a very dense planet considering its size and age. Typically, these worlds have low density, and some even have extended evaporating atmospheres. K2-25b is measured to have a dense core, rocky or water-rich, with a thin shell, ”says lead author Gudmundur Stefansson.

Planets the size between Earth and Neptune are common companions to stars in the Milky Way. Understanding how these mini-Neptuns form and develop is one of the main questions in exoplanet studies.


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