Boise State Studies Exoplanets That Hug Their Stars

Nov 4, 2016

Imagine if Jupiter drifted so close to the sun its atmosphere was burned away and the rocky core that was left orbited our star every three or four hours. Boise State University is leading a group of researchers looking at scenarios like this one in other solar systems.

Using a $166,000 grant from NASA, scientists led by BSU will try to figure out where these exoplanets, which closely hug their host stars, come from.

More than 100 of these ultra-short-period planets have been found, but it’s not clear how they got so close to their stars.

Elisabeth Adams is with the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute and is part of the study group. She’s using data from the Kepler Spacecraft to learn more about these unique exoplanets.

“We don’t know if we’re seeing some planets that were originally just a few times the size of the Earth and moved inwards. It could have been Earth-sized planets, it could be cores of giant planets, and we’re looking for ways to tell the difference and see if we can figure out where these things came from,” says Adams.

Studying these far away exoplanets may help scientists better understand how gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn formed.

Adams will give a talk on the group’s research Friday at 7:30 p.m. Boise State.

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