Science

This giant gas planet is as fluffy and puffy as cotton candy

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — (AP) — Astronomers have identified a planet that’s bigger than Jupiter yet surprisingly as fluffy and light as cotton candy.

The exoplanet has exceedingly low density for its size, an international team reported Tuesday. The gas giants in our solar system — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — are much denser.

“The planet is basically super fluffy” because it's made mostly of light gases rather than solids, lead author Khalid Barkaoui of Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a statement

Scientists say an outlier like WASP-193b is ideal for studying unconventional planetary formation and evolution. The planet was confirmed last year, but it took extra time and work to determine its consistency based on observations by ground telescopes. It's thought to consist mostly of hydrogen and helium, according to the study published in Nature Astronomy.

The planet is located some 1,200 light-years away. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. It's the second-lightest exoplanet found so far based on its dimensions and mass, according to the researchers.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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