According to a study published in January 2022 in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, this is due to the gravitational force of the parent star.
Planet which was first discovered in 2014, was previously observed using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.
After identifying it, the research team wanted to obtain another view of the planet WASP-103b using CHEOPS, a Swiss mission characterized by the European Space Agency (ESA), to combine with previous observations.
The satellite, launched in 2019, looks for potentially habitable planets. It then detects planets using the transit method, or measures the decrease in star brightness when a planet passes in front of the star.
Then, when astronomers watched WASP-103b pass in front of its star, they could see the planet’s strange shape like a rugby ball.
“After observing some of the so-called ‘transits’, we were able to measure the deformation. It’s amazing that we were able to do this, this is the first time such an analysis has been done,” said the post-doctoral researcher at Geneva University, Babatunde Akinsanmi.
The influence of the tides
The researchers suspect the planet’s slightly elongated shape is due to the massive tidal forces that occur on the planet, similar to those on Earth.
The strong tidal forces induced on the planet are similar to the tides that the Moon triggers in Earth’s oceans, but in a much more extreme way.
“Because of its very close proximity to its star, we suspect that a very large tide was caused on the planet. However, we have not been able to verify this,” said study co-author Yann Alibert, professor of astrophysics at University of Bern in Switzerland.
Astronomers say the planet is almost twice the size of Jupiter. The planet WASP-103 orbits around its star in less than an Earth day.
According to them, because of its scale and short orbit, this gas giant is categorized as a planet ‘hot jupiter‘.
Deformation or changes in the shape of the planet also allow researchers to learn more about its composition, which is gaseous like Jupiter.
“The resistance of a material to deformation depends on its composition,” Akinsanmi said Space, Wednesday (13/1/2022).
“We can only see the tides on Earth in the oceans. The rocky part doesn’t move much. Therefore, by measuring how much the planet is deformed, we can determine how much is composed of rock, gas or water.”
The research team hopes to make more observations with CHEOPS and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, to make it easier for them to understand the changing shape and interior structure of WASP-103b and similar exoplanets.
“This will improve our understanding of ‘hot Jupiters’ and allow for better comparisons between them and the giant planets in the solar system,” explains the astronomy professor at Geneva University, Monika Lendl.
Lendl said future observations would help them realize what they wanted to understand about the planet WASP-103b.
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