Hotter than the Sun

There is so much we do not know about our universe, so many parts of it are still unexplored. The potential for alien life being out there is ever present, as well as many different planets which we yet have not encountered before. One such interesting planet, with properties not recorded previously, is the superheated KELT-9b.

This scorching hot planet is located some 650 light years away, and its temperatures dwarf even some stars. As it circles its even hotter sun, the star is leaving behind a trail similar to a comet.

Scientists discovered KELT-9 and the hot planet orbiting it back in 2017. KELT-9 is a star that is twice as large and twice as hot as our own sun, and the planet that orbits it is of a similar temperature to our sun.

KELT-9b is a planet similar to Jupiter, and it orbits its suns differently than Earth does. In fact, instead of circling the star around the equator, it orbits its sun around the poles, and it does so at a rapid speed. It completes its transition once every 36 hours. During its travel, it passes between its star and our telescopes once in that time frame.

Another interesting fact is that the planet aptly named KELT-9b is tidally locked. This means that as the planet passes around the sun, it is always facing the sun with one side. This means that one side is continuously bombarded by the sun’s radiation, while the other side is stuck in perpetual night.

The side facing the sun, or the day side, is almost three times the size of our own Jupiter. The difference is it achieves this size while having only half of the mass of Jupiter. Additionally, temperatures on this side of the planet often reach 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit. This is some 2,000 degrees cooler than our Sun. This temperature mirrors the ones measured in stars called brown dwarfs.

Even though its size and the temperatures might indicate it is a star, scientists are convinced that this celestial object does not have the necessary properties to be declared a star.

One of the reasons is the fact its center does not reach temperatures that are necessary to fuse hydrogen and helium successfully. Scientists Scott Gaudi is leading the study on KELT-9b, and he and his team are tracking the planet with some help of volunteer amateur astronomers which keep track of the planet as it passes around its star and then disappears behind it.

The main telescope they use to track the planet is called Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope. The data collected with this telescope is then used to get a clearer picture of this strange planet.

One thing the scientists are debating is whether the extreme radiation is pushing material out of the planet and then that is what creates the glowing trail it leaves behind it. Molecules of water or methane also cannot form in circumstances such as these.

Due to its trajectory, the planet probably had a pretty violent past. The fact that it has the strange perpendicular orbit indicates that it was probably struck by another object sometime during its existence. It is even possible that the planet might evaporate due to the high levels of radiation it is subjected to on a daily basis.

Even spotting the planet should be considered lucky since its transition around the Sun is extremely short and near-polar. It also does not help that the star it orbits is oblate and not spherical. At this rate, due to orbital precession, the planet will disappear from view within 15 0 years and won’t reappear for at least three and a half millennia.

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