Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Little Off-Topic But Way Cool

A planet that falls in the class known as "hot Jupiters" has been discovered orbiting a star 1000 light years away. It is being described as "The Planet That Shouldn't Exist." According to the story in PhysOrg:

The 'huge new planet', found orbiting a star 1000 light years away, was discovered by the UK's WASP project, of which St Andrews is a founding member.

Newly-christened WASP-18b, the planet is so massive and so close to its host star that it is almost certain to spiral inwards to its destruction during the lifetime of the star.

Researchers from St Andrews are currently calculating the rate at which tidal interactions between star and planet will eventually cause the planet's orbit to decay completely.

St Andrews' physicist, Professor Andrew Collier Cameron said, "This is another bizarre WASP planet discovery. The situation is analogous to the way tidal friction is gradually causing the earth's spin to slow down, and the Moon to spiral away from the earth.

"In this case, however, the spin of the star is slower than the orbit of the planet - so the star should be spinning up, and the planet spiralling in."

The planet is reported to be ten times the size of Jupiter. Way cool. Hat tip to Bill Myers.

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