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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hot Jupiter! It's we who are weird

Ten Hot Jupiters  (ESA/Hubble artist)
Humans have a tendency to call that which is different from them “weird.”  However, if there’s more out there of “them” than of “us,” perhaps it is we who weird.

This seems to be the case with “hot Jupiters.”  No, these are not Jupiter on a sweltering day, but rather “gas giants like Jupiter but much hotter, with orbits that take them feverishly
close to their stars.”

Because our solar neighborhood has nothing of the kind, we first considered them “oddballs.”  Come to find out that many other solar systems have a similar array of “smaller planets that orbit very closely to their stars.”

We're not quite sure yet why this occurs, but we do have our theories.  One popular one “holds that gas giants in distant orbits become hot Jupiters when the gravitational influences from nearby stars or planets drive them into closer orbits.”  After initial “wayward” periods of “eccentric orbits,” these steamy young planets eventually settle into predictability.

Now that’s something humans can really relate to.


Copyright March 29, 2016 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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