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Scientists discover hottest giant exoplanet ever observed

  • Scientists have discovered a distant Jupiter-sized planet that burns hotter than any they have ever seen.
  • KELT-9b orbits an extremely hot star, making its temperature a scorching 7,820 degrees Fahrenheit.
Artist conception of the KELT-9 system.
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)
Artist conception of the KELT-9 system.

Scientists have discovered a distant Jupiter-sized planet that burns hotter than any they have ever seen, according to a new paper.

An international team of researchers report that the distant planet KELT-9b orbits an extremely hot star, making its temperature a scorching 7,820 degrees Fahrenheit. That is hot enough to break up molecules and strip away the planet's outer atmosphere, according to the paper. That is also about 2,000 degrees cooler than the sun.

The research could help scientists better understand these types of planets. There are thousands of known exoplanets, but only a few as hot as this have been observed.

The planet is one of seven such known planets orbiting so-called A-type stars, which burn at roughly 9,000 to 17,000 degrees. No transiting exoplanets have yet been found around the even hotter B-type stars.

The team, lead by astronomer B. Scott Gaudi of Ohio State University, published its findings Monday in the journal Nature.

"This planet is so extreme it tests our understanding of the physics of the atmospheres of planets," Gaudi told CNBC in an interview, adding that the data he had crashed a colleague's computer. Gaudi also said that the researchers relied on the help of a network of amateur astronomers to locate the planet.

Previously, the hottest known exoplanet of this kind was WASP-33b, which was recorded to have a temperature of 5,480 degrees.