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Students and visitors to the school take pictures on the steps of Old Main on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 before Penn State football's game against Indiana 

Using data from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey Mission, a Penn State graduate student and team of collaborators newly discovered a gas giant planet, with an elliptical, comet-like orbit, moving closer to its host star, according to a Monday release.

The planet was discovered during the research team’s observations through TESS of nearly 3 millions stars.

Researchers said they believe the planet will eventually become a “hot Jupiter," or Jupiter-sized planet, located “extremely close” to its host star, which will cause the planet to undergo "dramatic temperature changes and extreme weather events," the release said.

“Astronomers have several theories about how hot Jupiters have come to be located so close to their host stars,” Jiayin Dong, the Penn State graduate student and lead author of the new study, said. “One theory suggests that the exoplanet began with a much larger orbit that ended up shrinking over time. This newly discovered planet appears to be doing just that, which gives us the rare opportunity to study the planet in action as its orbit shrinks.”

According to the release, the new planet, TOI-3362 b, has an 18-day orbit that is "extremely eccentric" around the star named TOI-3362, which is 50% larger than the sun.

“The time that the planet spends passing in front of its host star is short compared to what we expected based on the planet’s orbital period,” Dong said. “This short duration implies that the planet has an elongated orbit — unlike all the planets we have in the solar system.”

Dong confirmed the theory by turning the MINERVA-Australis exoplanet observatory in Australia and the CHIRON instrument at the Astronomical Observatory Cerro Tololo in Chile. According to the researchers, it is uncommon for a planet to have such an elliptical orbit.

The extreme orbit suggests TOI-3362 b is “migrating” closer to its star and might provide an example of how and where large planets form, which is what the research team is especially interested in, the release said. 

In addition to Dong, the research team includes Jonathan Jackson, another graduate student at Penn State, and Rebekah Dawson, Shaffer Career Development Associate Professor in Science, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and an author of the study, as well as researchers from other universities across the country.

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