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A newly discovered exoplanet called TOI-1853b has left astronomers scratching their heads, Science Alert reported.
Scientists wrote in a new paper that the outer world is a bit smaller than Neptune but has an astonishingly high density, almost twice that of Earth. This suggests it’s packed with rocks, which is quite unusual for a planet its size.
Researchers proposed that TOI-1853b might have had a very wild and violent past: The exoplanet began as the core of a large gas giant that lost its gassy atmosphere in a dramatic collision with another planet.
When they ran computer simulations, the scientists found that for it to end up with a density “higher than steel,” it needed “to be water-rich and suffer an extreme giant impact at a speed of greater than 75 kilometers per second in order to produce TOI-1853b as it is observed,” according to co-author Phil Carter.
Carter and his team also noted that TOI-1853b lives in a region of space known as the “Neptunian desert,” where Neptune-sized planets closely orbit their host star.
So far, astronomers have found more than 5,500 exoplanets, but only a handful of them fit the description of TOI-1853b. Understanding why this region is so empty could help us learn more about how planets form and evolve.
Next, the team plans to study TOI-1853b more closely to see if it still has any traces of an atmosphere and to analyze its makeup, which could also confirm whether the collision theory is correct.