The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel: Sci, Space, Tech

December 15, 2014 4:21 PM

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Prabal and his team modelled cases where the planets are in orbit close to small red dwarf stars, much fainter than our Sun, but by far the most common type of star in the Galaxy. The planets' rotation is locked, so the worlds keep the same face towards the stars they orbit, much like the Moon does as it moves around the Earth. According to the scientists, in these circumstances the distortion of the planets should be detectable in transit events, where the planets moves in front of their stars and blocks out some of their light. The image above is an artist’s impression of a stretched rocky planet in orbit around a red dwarf star. So close to the star, there is a difference in the strength of the gravitational field on each side of the planet, stretching it significantly.

If astronomers are able to find these extreme exoplanets, it could give them new insights into the properties of Earth-like planets as a whole. "Imagine taking a planet like the Earth or Mars, placing it near a cool red star and stretching it out," says team leader, Prabal Saxena of George Mason Uni...

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