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Exoplanets

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NBC Boston

NBC Boston reporter Matt Fortin visits the lab of Prof. Julien de Wit to learn more about his work discovering two new planets, a puffy, Jupiter-sized planet located over 1,000 light years away that has the consistency of cotton candy and an Earth-sized planet that may lack an atmosphere. “Through studying other atmospheres we get to improve our understanding of our own climate,” de Wit explains. “It’s like a sensitive mirror that helps us reflect back on us, so it’s all these different vantage points that we are gaining. That’s what exoplanetary science gives us.”

CNN

MIT astronomers have discovered an exoplanet that is 50% bigger than Jupiter, but still the second lightest planet ever found, with a density similar to cotton candy,” reports Leah Asmelash for CNN. The planet could provide a useful window into how puffy planets form. “The bigger a planet’s atmosphere, the more light can go through,” Prof. Julien de Wit explains. “So it’s clear that this planet is one of the best targets we have for studying atmospheric effects. It will be a Rosetta Stone to try and resolve the mystery of puffy Jupiters.”

USA Today

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have discovered a celestial body, which has been called “the second lightest planet ever discovered,” reports Eric Lagatta for USA Today. “The star-orbiting exoplanet outside of our solar system is about seven times less massive than Jupiter, which is why astronomers compare its low density to cotton candy,” Lagatta explains. 

The Guardian

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have uncovered a new “earth-sized planet orbiting a small, cool star that is expected to shine for 100 times longer than the sun,” reports Ian Sample for The Guardian. The planet is “55 light years from Earth and was detected as it passed in front of its host star, an ultra-cool red dwarf that is half as hot as the sun and 100 times less luminous,” writes Sample. 

Newsweek

MIT astronomers have discovered an exoplanet with a density similar to cotton candy, reports Newsweek’s Jess Thomson. The planet, “named WASP-193b, is the second-least dense exoplanet ever found, with a density of around 0.059 grams per cubic centimeter, or 3.68 pounds per cubic foot,” Thomson explains. “This makes it about 7 times less dense than our neighboring planet Jupiter, despite being 50 percent larger in size, and about 1 percent the density of our own planet.”

Associated Press

An international team of astronomers, including scientists from MIT, discovered an exoplanet with an “exceedingly low density for its size,” reports Marcia Dunn for the Associated Press. The planet “is ideal for studying unconventional planetary formation and evolution,” explains Dunn. 

Forbes

Forbes contributor Jamie Carter spotlights a new study co-authored by MIT scientists that suggests, “the absence of carbon dioxide in a rocky planet’s atmosphere—relative to others in the same star system—may indicate the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface.”

The Washington Post

Prof. Sara Seager and her colleagues have discovered “a six-pack of planets, formed at least 4 billion years ago,” that orbit a nearby sun-like star named HD110067, reports Joel Achenbach for The Washington Post. “Occasionally, nature reveals an absolute gem,” says Seager. “HD 110067 is an immediate astronomical Rosetta stone – offering a key system to help unlock some mysteries of planet formation and evolution.”

Smithsonian Magazine

A team of astronomers, including researchers from MIT, witnessed a star swallowing up an entire planet for the first time, reports Margaret Osborne for Smithsonian Magazine. “For decades, scientists have only been able to witness the before and after of such planetary engulfment,” writes Osborne.

CNN

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have observed, for the first time, a dying star consuming a planet, reports Jack Guy for CNN. “The fact that the solar system planets would get engulfed into the sun in the future was something I had read first in high school, so it was surreal to realize that we may have found the first ever example of catching a similar event in real time,” says postdoc Kishalay De.

Reuters

Reuters reporter Will Dunham writes that scientists from MIT and elsewhere have “observed a star, bloated in its old age, swallowing a Jupiter-like planet, then expelling some material into space in an energetic belch.” Postdoc Kishalay De notes that "this planet doesn't go out without a fight. Even before it is engulfed whole, our data provides evidence that the planet tries to rip out the star's surface layers with its own gravity. But the star happens to be a thousand times more massive so the planet can't do much and eventually makes the plunge.”

The Washington Post

Researchers from MIT, Harvard, Caltech and elsewhere have spotted a hot, Jupiter-sized world being ingested by a sun-like star, reports Kasha Patel for The Washington Post. “The hope is that we would actually be able to use this entire new suite of instruments to try to find every single planet being engulfed in our galaxy in real time,” explains postdoc Kishalay De. “That’s only going to become possible now because of this discovery and together with the availability of instrumentation.”

NPR

Postdoc Kishalay De speaks with NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce about how he and his colleagues have observed, for the first time, a sun-like star consuming an orbiting planet. "We weren't quite looking for this. We were looking for similar things, but not quite this," says De. "Like a lot of discoveries in science, this happened to be an accidental discovery that really opened our eyes to a new type of phenomenon."

The New York Times

New York Times reporter Becky Ferreira spotlights how astronomers from MIT, Harvard, Caltech and elsewhere have spotted a dying star swallowing a large planet, “offering the first direct glimpse of a gnarly process called planetary engulfment that most likely awaits Earth in the deep future.” Postdoc Kishalay De explains that: “Finding an event like this really puts all of the theories that have been out there to the most stringent tests possible. It really opens up this entire new field of research.”

New Scientist

A team of astronomers from MIT and other institutions have detected a “sun-like star gobbling up a planet and belching out a blast of light and energy,” reports Leah Crane for New Scientist. “In the past, all of the evidence that we’ve had of stars eating planets is from looking at stars that have done that hundreds of thousands of years ago,” says postdoc Kishalay De. “But we have never caught a star red-handed eating a planet.”