NASA finds a Neptune-sized planet whipping stars every week

Blur Blue

NASA scientists have discovered a new exoplanet that rotates around its star at breakneck speed.

The exoplanet, AU Mic b, is the size of Neptune, but surrounds its star in an orbit so tight that a full revolution takes an Earth week, reports. While their inhospitable conditions almost certainly rule out the possibility of life there, NASA researchers say testing the unusual star system could help them better understand the different ways planets and star systems form.

Find the differences

The AU Mic solar system is particularly close to the best understood Beta Pictoris system, reports. And by contrasting the star and exoplanets within each, the NASA suspects could reveal important differences in how planets can form.

For example, data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) suggests that AU Mic b was formed far from its relatively young star, but over time gradually drew its tightest orbit. On the other hand, the exoplanets that orbit around Beta Pictoris do not seem to have migrated much.

Hard hit

What NASA knows about AU Mic b is that it has had a pretty tough life. The orbiting star is still relatively young, between 20 and 30 million years old compared to 4.5 billion on our Sun.

Because the young star is still shrinking and developing, it sends out devastating storms of cosmic radiation, reportedly incessantly bombarding AU Mic b as it spins in circles.

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