The first ultra-hot Neptune, LTT 9779b, is one of nature’s improbable planets

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

An international team of astronomers, including a group from the University of Warwick, have discovered the first Ultra Hot Neptune planet orbiting the nearby star LTT 9779.

The world orbits so close to its star that its year lasts only 19 hours, meaning the stellar radiation heats the planet to over 1700 degrees Celsius.

At these temperatures, heavy elements like iron can be ionized in the atmosphere and molecules disassociated, providing a unique laboratory to study the chemistry of planets outside the solar system.

Although the world weighs twice as much as Neptune does, it is also slightly larger and so has a similar density. Therefore, LTT 9779b should have a huge core of around 28 Earth-masses, and an atmosphere that makes up around 9% of the total planetary mass.

The system itself is around half the age of the Sun, at 2 billion years old,

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