Exoplanets that stagger the mind and whiffle the imagination.
Day 100 of the year, but who’s counting?
I’ve only been paying a wee bit of attention to the news of exoplanetary discoveries. It’s amazing how many planetary systems we’ve managed to discover in the past few years. I am always amazed at this type of exploration – much like all the new species we keep finding on earth. Wonders never cease.
As we’ve already limited our own solar system to 8 planets (sorry, Pluto, you’re too evil), and an increasing number of planetoids (Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris and so on). However, we have turned our attention ever outward (if that’s how spacetime works, it might be backward) to new places. I thought I should look at some of those, just because it’s kinda cool.
As we discover more worlds orbiting distant stars, we are finding that “conventional thinking” doesn’t seem to apply to the growing menagerie of exoplanets. And this most recent exoplanetary discovery is no different.
In fact, the two exoplanets found to be orbiting a star 375 light-years away shouldn’t exist at all.
The two gas giant planets were spotted during a survey of “metal poor” stars. When focusing on a star called HIP 11952, researchers from the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, discovered a slight wobble in the star’s position.
The wobble is being caused by the gravitational tug of two exoplanets — one is nearly the size of Jupiter and orbits the star every seven days, the other is approximately three-times the size of Jupiter and has an orbital period of 290 days.
Kepler 16-B is an exoplanet that is orbiting two stars.
Worlds such as this one are referred to as “Hot Jupiters” – big gas giants that are very close to their parent stars (there’s a Hollywood joke in there somewhere).
Located 880 light-years away, the star CoRoT-2a is ruthlessly pummeling a closely-orbiting planet with powerful X-rays, blasting an estimated 5 million tons of material off of it every second! The planet, dubbed CoRoT-2b, orbits its star at a distance of about 3 percent the distance between the Earth and the sun — only around 2.8 million miles — and receives a hundred thousand times the X-ray radiation that Earth receives.
In turn, the planet’s close proximity may be responsible for keeping up the high rotation rate of its star, increasing its magnetic activity and thus its X-ray output.
That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There have been over 100 exoplanetary systems discovered, and the number will undoubtedly increase as we go ahead. The most troubling aspect of this bonanza is the underlying argument that we are searching for worlds that may be suitable to support human life. In point of fact, we already have one. Now’s not the time to bail and try to find greener pastures light-years away.
Reminds me of Gil-Scott Heron.
265 Days to Dec 21st 2012
- Jupiter Sheds Light on a Strange Planet Outside Our Solar System (2012indyinfo.com)
- New Ultradense Planet Found; Astronomers Baffled (news.nationalgeographic.com)
- First Four Exoplanets of 2012 Discovered (science.slashdot.org)
- Hell off Earth: Blustery Exoplanet Charted in 2-D for First Time (scientificamerican.com)
- Three Tiny Exoplanets Suggest Solar System Not So Special (science.slashdot.org)
- Space Telescope Finds 100 Billion Alien Worlds in Milky Way (foxnews.com)