In an astronomical discovery that is confounding researchers, a new planet denser than steel has been located. This exoplanet, dubbed TOI-1853b, is almost twice as dense as Earth and slightly smaller than Neptune, with a high-rock composition that challenges conventional understanding of planet formation and evolution. According to ScienceAlert, the exoplanet’s unusual traits suggest the possibility of a colossal collision in its history.
A team led by physicist Luca Naponiello from Italy’s University of Rome Tor Vergata and the University of Bristol in the UK, hypothesizes that TOI-1853b might have been the core of a gas planet, which lost its atmosphere due to a massive impact. The team’s work indicates that TOI-1853b’s peculiar characteristics could indeed be the aftermath of such an enormous collision. The exoplanet, with a density higher than that of steel, is believed to have lost a lighter atmosphere and water during "extremely energetic planet-planet collisions during its formation."
Astronomers Discover Exoplanet With Density Greater Than Steel
A team of international astronomers has uncovered a new exoplanet that defies conventional understanding of planetary evolution. The planet, named TOI-1853b, possesses an extraordinarily high density exceeding that of steel. This unusual characteristic leads researchers to believe it could be the result of a massive cosmic collision.
A Baffling "Steel Planet"
Researchers, led by physicist Luca Naponiello from Italy’s University of Rome Tor Vergata and the University of Bristol in the UK, found TOI-1853b’s composition and density puzzling. The planet is almost twice as dense as Earth, but slightly smaller than Neptune. Its high-rock composition is difficult to reconcile with standard models of planet formation. The team suggests that this "steel planet" may have been the core of a gas planet that lost its atmosphere due to a massive impact.
A Rare Exoplanet in the Neptunian Desert
TOI-1853b is an exoplanet located in a region known as the Neptunian desert. This is a space where Neptune-sized planets orbit their stars at a close range. Currently, only around 5,500 exoplanets have been discovered in this category, making TOI-1853b a rare find. The strangeness and rarity of this planet could provide valuable insights into planetary formation and evolution over time.
Unpacking the Planet’s Density
TOI-1853b boasts a radius 3.46 times that of Earth, and despite being slightly smaller than Neptune, it weighs an astounding 73.2 Earth masses. This gives it a calculated density of 9.7 grams per cubic centimeter – significantly denser than steel or iron, which both have densities of around 7.87 grams per cubic centimeter. By comparison, Neptune has an average density of just 1.64 grams per cubic centimeter due to its extensive atmosphere. The high density of TOI-1853b suggests it contains less atmosphere and more materials of greater density.
The Aftermath of a Catastrophic Collision
The research team speculates that TOI-1853b’s unusual characteristics may be the result of a catastrophic cosmic collision. Simulations suggest that two already massive and still-forming planets likely collided, ejecting their atmospheres and leaving behind the dense "steel planet". For such extreme density to occur, one of the colliding planets would need to be rich in water and sustain an impact exceeding 75 kilometers per second, explains University of Bristol physicist Phil Carter. The team’s research, published in Nature, aims to further investigate the likelihood of such a collision.
The discovery of TOI-1853b is a significant step in understanding the diversity and complexity of exoplanets. Its high density and unusual composition challenge our current understanding of planetary formation and evolution. As researchers continue to investigate this "steel planet", they may uncover new insights that could reshape our knowledge of the cosmos. This discovery once again demonstrates the vast and fascinating mystery of space that sparks our curiosity and drives future exploration and discovery.