Astronomers have found a ‘bizarre’ clump of ‘super-puff planets’ orbiting a star which resembles our own sun.
These rare planets have roughly the same density as candy floss (which is called cotton candy in the US).
They were found near a star called Kepler-51 – which was only discovered itself in 2012 – by astronomers using the Hubble Telescope.
These planets are all roughly the size of Jupiter but have just a small fraction of its mass.
‘This means the planets have an extraordinarily low density, more like that of Styrofoam rather than rock or water, based on new Hubble Space Telescope observations, Nasa wrote.
‘It wasn’t until 2014 when the low densities of these planets were determined, to the surprise of many.
‘The recent Hubble observations allowed a team of astronomers to refine the mass and size estimates for these worlds — independently confirming their “puffy” nature.’
Super puff planets ‘balloon’ to huge sizes, although it’s not known how this happens.
This means they become very big, but don’t gain the same mass as the sorts of planets we’re familiar with in our solar system.
‘Though no more than several times the mass of Earth, their hydrogen/helium atmospheres are so bloated they are nearly the size of Jupiter.
‘In other words, these planets might look as big and bulky as Jupiter, but are roughly a hundred times lighter in terms of mass.’
The puff-planets were found by Jessica Libby-Roberts, a graduate student in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.
‘They’re very bizarre,’ she said.