Researchers have discovered a strikingly dense young exoplanet that is orbiting a young star in the Hyades cluster. The researchers say the planet is unusually dense in size and mass. It is estimated to have a mass of 25 Earths, slightly smaller than Neptune. The existence of the planet makes it inconsistent with leading planetary formation theories.
The exoplanet, known as K2-25b, was observed using the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at the Kite Peak National Observatory. The planet is dense enough that scientists are questioning how it exists. The planet orbits an M dwarf star, the most common type of star in the Milky Way. A complete track takes 3.5 days. The star’s system is about 600 million years old and about 150 light-years from Earth. Scientists have determined that planets between Earth and Neptune are the most common companion stars in the Milky Way.
K2-25b has a mass 25 times that of Earth. The researchers say it is almost always the core and has a tiny gas cladding. Scientists are trying to determine how the planet avoids accumulating large layers of gas at such high mass and the resulting strong gravitational pull. The size of the exoplanet was originally measured by the Kepler satellite and later refined using the WIYN telescope. Interestingly, one of the key breakthroughs in making such a precise measurement of the exoplanet is a diffuser made of ready-made components, which cost about $500. The diffuser is connected to the telescope to diffuse the star’s light to cover more pixels on the camera for more accurate measurements. Scientists are continuing to study K2-25b, which is still a mystery.