A team of researchers from the US Space Agency and the University of Colorado at Boulder have confirmed the existence of a new type of exoplanet known as super puffs. The "cuddly" planets have a density of less than 0.1 grams per cubic centimeter in volume and are "almost" as light as cotton candy, the scientists say.
The exoplanets located in the Kepler 51 solar system, 2,400 light-years away from Earth, were first observed in 2012 through NASA's Kepler telescope, and in 2014 scientists found them to have a low level of density. However, the first clues about its composition come only now. with the study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Scientists say the trio of "cute globes" observed through the Hubble telescope are the lightest set of exoplanets ever discovered outside our solar system. The planets have been around for about 500 million years, and although they are similar in size to Jupiter, but in terms of their weight, they are nothing compared to the "giant" of our solar system.
According to the researchers, the atmosphere of the super puffs is opaque, something that leads them to believe that they might be similar to Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Through computer simulations, the team developed the theory that exoplanets are composed of hydrogen and helium, being covered by a thick methane mist layer.
Over time, two of the exoplanets may no longer be super puffs. Scientists predict, for example, that Kepler b, the planet closest to the sun in the solar system in question, will become a smaller, warmer version of Neptune. The farthest Kepler d, however, may remain 'cuddly' for some time to come, although its size diminishes.
Researchers will soon be able to determine with greater certainty the composition of exoplanets through the James Webb space telescope. When it reaches space after 2021, the space telescope will explore the cosmos through infrared light, something that could help astronomers understand the mystery behind the "cute globes".