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What is the Most Massive Exoplanet?

If you would like to be able to find out yourself what is the most massive exoplanet found so far, here is how you do it. Go to the Extrasolar Planets Encylopedia catalog page and click on the button in the header of the table that says “All fields” and then click on the column called Mass. When you click on it, the data in the table should be sorted in order of numerical value in that column (i.e., the mass of the planets). An arrow just to the right of the word Mass tells you whether the numerical order is ascending or descending (the arrow will point upwards for an ascending order). If you click the column header again, the numerical ordering will flip from ascending to descending or vice versa.

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To find the most massive exoplanet you want the mass measurements to be descending, with the largest values appearing first. However, not all exoplanets have mass measurements and for those that don't the corresponding entry in the mass column will be blank. When you sort the table in descending order of mass, rows without a mass value will appear first so you will have to scroll down. The first non-blank entry in the sorted mass column corresponds to the most massive confirmed exoplanet. However, there may be a large error margin on the mass so you should carefully examine several tens of rows in the sorted table (better still, download and read the table into an application such as EXCEL and analyze). The number in the cell in the mass column is the mass in units of Jupiter's mass. You can convert to Earth masses by multiplying the number by 317.828 (which is the mass of Jupiter in Earth masses). If you need the answer in kilograms (kg), then multiply the number in the cell by $1.8981 \times 10^{27} \$ kg (which is Jupiter's mass in kg). From here you can convert to any other units by typing an appropriate statement in a Google search box. See also http://astrophysicsformulas.com for sources for solar system data.

As an example, in August 2012, the most massive exoplanet was CD-35 2722 b. This planet has no radius measurement, and the mass is given as $31\pm8$ Jupiter masses. No orbital period is given, and half of the maximum planet-star distance (i.e., the semimajor axis) is given as $67\pm4$ times the corresponding value for the Earth-Sun system (more precisely, $67\pm4$ Astronomical Unites, or AU). We note that the next three planets in the descending mass-ordered list have masses that are greater than the lower bound of the estimated mass of CD-35 2722 b.

A word of caution: the mass estimates for the majority of exoplanets are lower limits (i.e., minimum values only). Regardless, you should always try to find out what measurement uncertainties are associated with any quoted number (not just for exoplanet masses, but any measurement in general).

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