Helium-blown planets may explain exoplanet size mystery

Helium could make up almost half the mass of the atmosphere of giants exoplanets who migrated close to their starexplaining why there is a mysterious size gap in the scale of these worlds.

About 5,200 exoplanets have already been confirmed, and many of them are larger worlds that orbit close to their star, in some cases with orbital periods lasting just a few days. However, the first transit observations made by NASA Kepler Space Telescope and now for TESSthe Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, found a puzzling paucity of planets with radii between 1.4 and 2.4 times that of Earth. Astronomers call this the ‘lightning valley’, and while it appears to be telling us something fundamental about the nature, formation and evolution of planets, scientists have yet to determine what that something is.

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