“Popcorn Planet”: When Tides Inflate the Atmosphere of an Exoplanet

“Popcorn Planet”. It is not so much its external shape that gives the exoplanet WASP-107b its nickname. But the ratio between its density and its diameter.

In the same way that a popcorn kernel is particularly light for its size, this planet in the constellation Virgo is the size of Neptune (the fourth largest planet in the Solar System), but has a lower density than the gas giant. JupiterA curiosity that has intrigued researchers since they discovered it, 200 light years from home.

In a study published in May and who makes the headlinesedition of July 27n of Nature, A team has put forward a hypothesis to explain how a planet with such a small core can have such a large gas envelope.

Thanks to data collected by space telescopes James-Webb And Hubbleresearchers observed that WASP-107b had a particularly high internal temperature, induced by tides linked to the exoplanet’s orbit around its star.

And it is this warming due to the tides which would cause chemical modifications to its atmosphere, “inflating” it. Which would explain the large radius of WASP-107b despite its low density.

For researchers, this mechanism of “heating” by tides would be an essential process governing the atmospheric chemistry of most cold exoplanets, allowing their internal structure to be deduced.

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Nature (London)

Since 1869, this scientific journal with deserved prestige has welcomed – after several months of verification – the reports of major innovations in all fields: from biology to physics to astronomy. Its age does not prevent it from remaining astonishingly dynamic. In addition to articles intended for researchers and scientists, the journal also offers pages of news, debates and files accessible to the general public.

Like other newspapers, Nature propose archives dating back to 1987. But their pooling with all the more specialized publications of its press group, Nature Publishing Group, allows the visitor to access a very substantial mass of information. The very simple classification by scientific fields – chemistry, pharmacy, cancerology, biotechnology, immunology – greatly facilitates research. Another very practical point, all the articles are interspersed with numbered bibliographical notes, which refer directly to another article online. In the paper version, a summary of the articles accessible on the Net is provided.

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