Newly discovered exoplanet is too big to exist

Alfonso Maruccia

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The big picture: Protoplanetary disks require a sufficient amount of raw material to facilitate the formation of planets around a newborn star. The quantity of material present in the disk plays a crucial role in determining the potential size of the planets that can develop. However, a recently discovered exoplanet appears to defy this established theory, leaving scientists perplexed.

The ever-growing list of planets that shouldn't exist now includes LHS 3154b, a Neptune-sized exoplanet that appears to be too large for its host star. LHS 3154 is an "ultracool" dwarf star that is nine times less massive than our Sun. The planet itself is at least 13.2 times more massive than Earth. However, theoretical models had previously ruled out the formation of such a massive celestial object around a low-mass star.

The discovery of LHS 3154b was made using the Habitable Zone Planet Finder (HPF), an astronomical spectrograph developed at Penn State University by a team of scientists led by Suvrath Mahadevan. Mahadevan, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics and co-author of the Science paper detailing the findings, emphasized that this new exoplanet underscores "how little" we still comprehend about the universe.

HPF was explicitly engineered to identify planets orbiting the coolest stars beyond our solar system. Detecting such planets poses a considerable challenge due to the necessity for them to remain close to their host star to maintain temperatures suitable for liquid water. Mahadevan explained that HPF can successfully detect planets with close orbits around ultracool stars.

Stars are formed from vast clouds of gas and dust, Mahadevan explained. Following the birth of a star, residual gas and dust begin to orbit it and can eventually develop into planets.

The researchers utilized computer simulations to confirm that the elevated "planet-to-star mass ratio" identified through HPF is not an anticipated outcome of the planetary system orbiting LHS 3154. According to the paper, the presence of LHS 3154b in this universe could only be scientifically accounted for if the protoplanetary disk were 10 times more massive than expected for the host star.

The scientists noted that, based on ongoing survey work with the HPF and other instruments, a celestial object like LHS 3154b is likely to be "extremely rare." Mahadevan stated that the discovery serves as an exceptional test case for all existing planet formation theories, precisely aligning with the purpose for which the HPF was constructed.

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This stuff is so cool. Makes me feel like we're in the 16th century again. Explorers discovering new unknown regions that confound expectations and assumptions of the supposedly most developed cultures in Europe.

What it reminds us is that human understanding is usually severely limited to our own lived experience, despite our imagination.

Always something to keep in mind when dealing with other people.
 
A reminder to those who keep thinking that modern science is essentially infallible (because the scientific method!).

Especially in space, where most of our knowledge comes from what we can see from our own planet. Grand theories on the formation of planets, stars, and the entire universe rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall...
(Just remember the salt with the next grand theory, as it will likely be proven wrong within a handful of years.)
 
A reminder to those who keep thinking that modern science is essentially infallible (because the scientific method!).

Lol only noobs or kids think that. Science isn't a collection of facts, instead science is about making a claim and then conducting experiments to disprove it. And then publishing and letting other people try to disprove it. Sometimes they do because of errors in logic or experimental design.

Problem with space science is they can only test so much and the rest is just observational, so the theories must explain everything observed. Observe something new? Then you gotta change your theory to match.
 
Lol only noobs or kids think that. Science isn't a collection of facts, instead science is about making a claim and then conducting experiments to disprove it. And then publishing and letting other people try to disprove it. Sometimes they do because of errors in logic or experimental design.
Lots of people think that. They argue with me (a scientist) online constantly.

The part you are missing is the peer review component of publishing in scientific journals.
Getting published is fraught with human egos and politics. Further, findings that go against the prevailing theories are extremely difficult to get published because obviously you the researcher made a mistake in your study and that's why it found something else than the theory predicted.
 
Huh, the theory of planet formation has inconsistencies, which is also the basis for classifying Pluto as not a planet? Why am I not surprised?
 
Lots of people think that. They argue with me (a scientist) online constantly.

The part you are missing is the peer review component of publishing in scientific journals.
Getting published is fraught with human egos and politics. Further, findings that go against the prevailing theories are extremely difficult to get published because obviously you the researcher made a mistake in your study and that's why it found something else than the theory predicted.

That didn't happen here, did it?

If that happens then those researchers may need to publish in a less influential journal as of course scientists are people too and have biases and gatekeep at journals they edit. But you can still get published in Nature Astronomy, PNAS, etc. instead if Science won't take your paper and if the data and theory are sound, it will slowly gain acceptance. Having a good PR Dept at your place of research also comes in very handy too.
 
It's actually great news to realise we don't have all the answers and as a former astrophysics researcher it's a field that will always be behind the eight-ball due to the sheer distances involved and not being able to get remotely enough high res data to definitely prove or disprove theories. I always found it ridiculous to see how researchers became rusted on to theories as though they were gospel and yet often they were highly flawed or based on very limited data. It's one of the reasons I left the field. I got sick of realising many of the theories I was working on would never be proved in mine or probably the next ten lifetimes.
 
"The ever-growing list of planets that shouldn't exist"

I suspect I'd buy a book that listed these planets and detailed why each one shouldn't exist. I'd accept artists impressions of what these planets looked like. I also feel that when TS uses a picture to illustrate the article, it should say that it's just an artists illustration (unless they really do have photographers in the far flung corners of the galaxy).
 
Huh, the theory of planet formation has inconsistencies, which is also the basis for classifying Pluto as not a planet? Why am I not surprised?

It wasn't an inconsistency it was a vague definition that was made more specific. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union voted to make the definition of “planets” more specific, and unfortunately Pluto no longer met the new standard.

A planet is a celestial body that:

(1) is in orbit around the Sun.
(2) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to create a nearly round shape.
(3) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
 
If that happens then those researchers may need to publish in a less influential journal as of course scientists are people too and have biases and gatekeep at journals they edit. But you can still get published in Nature Astronomy, PNAS, etc. instead if Science won't take your paper and if the data and theory are sound, it will slowly gain acceptance.
Uh, no.

That's easy to say but not reality. Top journal space is limited and the competition for publication in it is fierce. It is hard enough to do with research that isn't against the status quo.

And if you can't publish in the top-tier journals you won't get or stay at an R1 school which means little to no research support and significantly more classes to teach. Second-tier publications are worthless at research schools. Not many researchers want to work at a teaching school hoping someone notices their B journal publication and that somehow turns into research resources to continue their research.
 
Uh, no.

That's easy to say but not reality. Top journal space is limited and the competition for publication in it is fierce. It is hard enough to do with research that isn't against the status quo.

And if you can't publish in the top-tier journals you won't get or stay at an R1 school which means little to no research support and significantly more classes to teach. Second-tier publications are worthless at research schools. Not many researchers want to work at a teaching school hoping someone notices their B journal publication and that somehow turns into research resources to continue their research.

Researchers funnel papers in low tier journals all the time just to get them out. I'm not sure where you get your ideas about publishing from but when Nature or Science reject your paper because you don't have enough support for your argument or your claims don't match your data well enough, there are many lower tier places to publish your work. And if your institution does a good enough job at spinning the work then it'll get noticed over time, especially in the past decade or two with the breadth of web search.

It sounds almost like you've never needed to dump a paper in a meh journal just to get your publication numbers up. This is why PNAS and JBC exist.
 
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