It has just been discovered that not all planets are spheres in shape.
The European Space Agency (ESA) states that it has discovered a planet that is shaped like a rugby ball in the constellation Hercules, according to a blog post from the agency. The planet is named WASP-103b and it seems to be deformed because of the enormous tidal forces caused by its host star.
The relation between the planet and its star is like the one between earth and the moon. WASP-103b’s host star is so close to the planet that it exerts a staggering tidal force on it. This force has caused the planet to take a rugby ball shape. It is fascinating to know that this is the first time that a deformity like this has been detected in an exoplanet.
The discovery was made by the ESA’s CHEOPS space telescope and built off data gathered by the Hubble Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
CHEOPS could detect very specific light signatures made by the planet as it transited its host star. Using this data, astronomers were able to figure out its exact tidal deformation.
“It’s incredible that CHEOPS was actually able to reveal this tiny deformation,” Jacques Laskar, researcher director at the French National Center for Scientific Research and co-author of a paper about the discovery in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, said in the blog post.
“This is the first time such analysis has been made, and we can hope that observing over a longer time interval will strengthen this observation and lead to a better knowledge of the planet’s internal structure,” he added.
The researchers are optimistic about gathering more information about the universe and its components through the new James Webb Space Telescope.