Monday, August 22, 2011

Pitch Black: The (almost) dark truth about hot Jupiters

Pitch Black: The (almost) dark truth about hot Jupiters

The first exoplanet discovered around a normal star in 1995 was anything but normal in comparison to our own solar system. 55 Pegasi b is a gas giant world orbiting every 4.23 days – placing it some eight times closer to its stellar parent than the planet Mercury is around the Sun. At least half as massive as Jupiter, this new planet wasn’t just one of the first exoplanets, it was the first of a whole new class of objects – the hot Jupiters. How such a giant, gas laden world could exist orbiting so close to a star was a huge mystery. We still don’t fully understand all the details, but it seems that planets like this must form much further away from their stars and then orbital evolution transports them inwards – through mechanisms like disk-migration, and the gravitational perturbations of other planets in a system.

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