NASA’s exoplanet-hunting satellite has made an exciting discovery: a gas giant named TOI-4600c. What makes this find extraordinary is that it has one of the longest known orbital periods, meaning it wanders far away from its star. The planet, roughly the size of Saturn, is situated a whopping 815 light-years away from Earth and completes a full orbit around its star in approximately 482.82 days, which is equivalent to 16 months.
Not only does TOI-4600c have an exceptionally long year, but it is also one of the coldest planets detected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). With temperatures dropping to around -110 degrees Fahrenheit (-78 degrees Celsius), this gas giant is definitely not a friendly vacation spot.
The significance of this discovery lies in the fact that it challenges our understanding of planetary systems, as it doesn’t resemble our own solar system. Astronomers are eager to unravel the mysteries of how different types of systems form and migrate.
However, detecting and confirming planets with long orbital periods like TOI-4600c is no easy feat. Many of the current observation methods struggle to identify such worlds. TESS, for instance, typically relies on observing dips in starlight to detect exoplanets, but its capabilities are limited to planets with orbital periods shorter than 40 days. In the case of TOI-4600c, multiple observations were combined to reveal its existence.
Interestingly, TOI-4600c is not the lone discovery in its system. Another planet, TOI-4600b, was also detected. This planet, larger than Neptune, completes an orbit around its star every 82.69 days.
The TOI-4600 system revolves around an orange dwarf star, which is smaller and cooler than our own sun. Despite its differences, this star is considered stable and has the potential to host planets that may be suitable for life.
The findings of this study have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, sparking excitement and fueling further research into the diverse range of exoplanetary systems beyond our solar system.
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