How’d that planet get there? Who knows.*

The universe continues to present us with exciting and mysterious surprises.

This Exoplanet Is Turning Planetary Formation Scenarios Upside Down (Universe Today)

What the heck is that giant exoplanet doing so far away from its star? Astronomers are still trying to figure out the curious case of HD 106906 b, a newly found gas giant that orbits at an astounding 650 astronomical units or Earth-sun distances from its host star. For comparison, that’s more than 20 times farther from its star than Neptune is from the sun.

“This system is especially fascinating because no model of either planet or star formation fully explains what we see,” stated Vanessa Bailey, a graduate astronomy student at the University of Arizona who led the research.

Many headlines are heralding the discovery:

Much emphasis is placed on the “shouldn’t exist” soundbite, but Universe Today explains why this discovery is important:

HD 106906 b is 11 times the size of Jupiter, throwing conventional planetary formation theory for a loop. Astronomers believe that planets gradually form from clumps of gas and dust that circle around young stars, but that process would take too long for this exoplanet to form — the system is just 13 million years old. (Our own planetary system is about 4.5 billion years old, by comparison.)

This discovery is distinctive because of what we might learn about star systems and planetary formation. It’s certainly not the first time that we’ve found a “planet that shouldn’t exist.” Discovered in 2009, WASP-18b weighs in (“masses in”?) at ten Jupiters, orbiting its star in less than one earth day. But the most recent holder of the “Shouldn’t Exist” title was discovered earlier this year. Kepler-78b is an Earth(ish)-sized rock whose orbit makes it extraordinary; its orbit is 40 times closer than that of Mercury to our Sun!

Announcement of the new planet’s discovery has captured the imagination of Whovians across this planet, with a petition seeking to change the name of “HD 106906 b” to “Gallifrey.”

*Yes, we are aware that The Doctor’s last name is not “Who.”


  11 comments for “How’d that planet get there? Who knows.*

  1. December 9, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Captured rogue planet?

    • One Eyed Jack
      December 9, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      That was my first thought.

    • Stuart Robbins
      December 10, 2013 at 12:17 AM

      How? To capture anything, you need to get rid of its energy of motion, otherwise it’ll continue on its merry way. Usually people invoke a third body to take away the energy to capture the second body, but that is HIGHLY unlikely to happen in this case. I suppose MAYBE you could get some sort of gas drag if the rogue happened to come by while the star was still forming, but I’m not sure what the likelihood of that event is or if protoplanetary disks are dense enough to create enough drag to slow down a rogue planet.

      • One Eyed Jack
        December 10, 2013 at 7:47 AM

        Neptune’s Triton is a captured moon. I’m not versed in the dynamics of what is required for a capture, but I would assume that if a planet can capture a moon, then a star can capture a planet.

        • Stuart Robbins
          December 11, 2013 at 1:25 PM

          Yeah, Triton is *probably* a captured satellite, but we’re really not sure how it could have worked out, especially since it’s on an almost perfectly circular orbit. Capturing a planet much farther from the star is like increasing the size of the dartboard by many orders of magnitude but still needing to hit a tiny tiny tiny spot.

  2. Stuart Robbins
    December 9, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    Waiting for someone like Richard Hoagland or Mike Bara to claim that this is evidence of planets being spun off stars (solar fission “model”). And waiting for the creationists to say GodDidIt.

  3. December 9, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Sounds more like a failed binary star system than a star with a “weird” planet.

  4. December 9, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Moving galaxies & solar systems with malestrom of gravitational pulls, & then a spin out. Planet Garbo – “I vant to be alone”.

  5. WMcCreery
    December 9, 2013 at 6:54 PM

    Maybe it’s an ALIEN spaceship (cue scary music)

    • Brian
      December 10, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      ya know… Dyson Sphere with an outer atmosphere collected on its travels and being used as camoflauge wouldn’t be so far fetched.

  6. Brian
    December 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    *A* Dyson Sphere… One day, I gotta learn to type.

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