Hottest planet is hotter than some stars

Astronomers have found the hottest planet yet, a gas giant with a temperature of nearly 3200 °C, which is hotter than some stars.

A collaboration called the Super Wide Angle Search for Planets (SuperWASP) announced hints of the planet's existence in 2006. The group had observed periodic dimmings of the parent star possibly caused by a planet about 1.4 times the size of Jupiter passing in front of the star once per orbit.

Follow-up measurements confirmed the planet's presence in 2010, showing distortions of the star's light spectrum that could only be due to a planet's influence. The measurements showed the planet's mass is less than 4.5 times that of Jupiter.

Called WASP-33b, the planet orbits its star at less than 7 per cent of Mercury's distance from the sun, whipping around the star once every 29.5 hours.That is not the tightest orbit known, but WASP-33b's parent star is one of the hottest known to host a planet. The star is a scorching 7160 °C, far hotter than the sun, whose visible surface is about 5600 °C.

The combination of its close orbit and its parent star's temperature heat WASP-33b to nearly 3200 °C, according to new infrared measurements made with a camera on the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands. Alexis Smith of Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, led the study.

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