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Space Science

Largest-Known Planet Befuddles Scientists 385

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the still-a-lot-of-ground-to-cover dept.
langelgjm writes to mention that scientists are quite puzzled over the discovery of the largest planet yet. According to study-leader Georgi Mandushev it should theoretically not even be able to exist. 'Dubbed TrES-4, the planet is about 1.7 times the size of Jupiter and belongs to a small subclass of "puffy" planets that have extremely low densities. The finding will be detailed in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal. [...] "TrES-4 is way bigger than it's supposed to be," Mandushev told Space.com. "For its mass, it should be much smaller. It basically should be about the size of Jupiter and instead it's almost twice as big." "TrES-4 appears to be something of a theoretical problem," said study team member Edward Dunham, also of the Lowell Observatory. "Problems are good, though, since we learn new things by solving them."'"
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Largest-Known Planet Befuddles Scientists

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  • by bluemonq (812827) * on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @12:05PM (#20158731)
    ...scientists discovered the "puffy" nature was due to its interior being mostly made of a substance remarkably similar to "fluffy chocolate nougat". Mars, Incorporated could not be reached for comment.
  • Dyson Sphere and all the /.ers rejoiced!

    Cheers!
  • by ResidntGeek (772730) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @12:07PM (#20158769) Journal
    This was reported in the Tampa Tribune as a small page-6 blurb under the headline "New Largest Planet Sports Squishy Surface", a conclusion drawn from a quote by a scientist saying the planet has no firm surface. I almost cried.
  • Screw the Space Odyssey diamond in jupiter, this "puffy" planet must be home to the universe's largest marshmallow!

    Somebody grab a sun and discover the graham wafer belt already.

    -Matt
    • by rubycodez (864176)
      it IS the universes largest marshmallow! and He's pissed at the Ghostbusters for torching his little kid.
  • by Meor (711208) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @12:08PM (#20158781)
    Prediction: The gravity 'constant' is not constant everywhere in the universe.

    I'm guessing it's bigger than it should be because with a lower gravity constant it isn't as dense for its mass.
    • by shawnce (146129)
      Marked as a troll? WTF folks.
    • Why the is the parent modded a Troll? Did I miss something?
      • Why the is the parent modded a Troll? Did I miss something?

        Besides my terrible grammar, I mean. I've really got to use that Preview feature more often.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Fire Dragon (146616)
      The gravity 'constant' is not constant everywhere in the universe.

      All constants are bad in physics. If all tests are made in here and they allways give you same constant to describe the event with other variables, it still doesn't rule out the possibility of certain calculation that has to be taken in consideration to make formula.

      Given a very bad example, we could give a constant value to mass of water by measuring its weight in same enviroment(temperature) and decide that 1 liter of water allways weights
      • by Llywelyn (531070)
        Really bad example, not even illustrative.

        Kilograms and other measures of mass do not depend on gravity, they depend on a referential mass of a defined size (1 liter of water, which you mention) which is balanced against the object. If we take it to another planet, move closer to the sun, change the constant of gravity, whatever else it will still be defined as 1 liter of water in mass. We can use scales in whatever gravity we are in to see how many kilograms something is by measuring one against the other
        • Really bad example, not even illustrative.
          Bad excample, I'll admit, mayby illustrative if I would have used all the terms correctly. I doubt that I could use them any better at the moment to describe the point that I was after.

          If we weight the 1 liter of water on different temperatures, we will get different weights(?)in Kg. This requering that we keep the measured object allways as 1 liter.

          My point being, we rely on defined constants to figure out astrophysics and then wonder why something doesn't fit to r
    • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @01:35PM (#20160261)
      I go with a simpler explanation. Something is wrong/missing with our observations.
  • Theoretical problem (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As in our theory has a problem.

    Isn't this just another in a long line of gas giants that are too young, and too close to the host stars for our theories of planetary formation?
  • YAY! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Etherwalk (681268)
    > "TrES-4 appears to be something of a theoretical problem," said study team member Edward Dunham, also of the Lowell Observatory. "Problems are good, though, since we learn new things by solving them."

    Dude! This guy should be an adviser to Congress. He can explain science to them.

    (And I mean that!)
    • by E++99 (880734)

      Dude! This guy should be an adviser to Congress. He can explain science to them.

      (And I mean that!)

      Wouldn't Congress just become more dangerous if they understood science?
  • ohmygawd (Score:2, Funny)

    by SuperBanana (662181)

    "TrES-4 is way bigger than it's supposed to be,"

    Like, and it's totally dating Pluto, ewwwww!

    What's with the valley-girl talk? "Way bigger"?

  • Dyson sphere around a now-extinct star. The clouds surrounding it were exhaust gasses that result from their ion-powered generators that scavenged the energy from the star when the star was young.
  • Too big! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @12:21PM (#20159017)
    It's way too big to be a planet and since small planets are called dwarf planets, please welcome the first discovered troll planet.
    • by Sunburnt (890890) *

      It's way too big to be a planet and since small planets are called dwarf planets, please welcome the first discovered troll planet.

      So that's where they're from. I was just blaming Digg and the public schools.

  • Allow me to specify (Score:5, Informative)

    by Brian Cohen (1027542) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @12:51PM (#20159455)
    Ok, it isn't the mass that is surprising, it is the volume. Larger (in mass) exoplanets have been found, sometimes they fall in to the category of Brown Dwarfs. But TrES-4 is hardly massive. According to the article, the density is .2 g/mL and the volume is 1.7 times that of Jupiter. That gives a mass of 1.7*(1.43128*10^15 km^3) * .2 g/mL = 4.866352 * 10^26 kg. Jupiters mass is 1.8986*10^27 kg. That means TrES-4's mass is only about one quarter the mass of Jupiter ((4.866352 * 10^26 kg)/ (1.8986*10^27 kg)= 0.256312651)
  • Duck! (Score:4, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @12:53PM (#20159475)
    If it floats on water, then it must weigh less than a duck, which means...

    A WITCH! It's a witch!
  • TrES-4 is an apt name for the planet. If "TrES" is read as the French word "très," and the digit 4 as the English "four," the resulting phrase is close to the French "très fort" which translates to something like "very extreme(ly)."

    Keep in mind that I have next to no knowledge of French and only recognize the phrase "très fort" because of Space Ghost..."Je parle français très fort, no?"
    • Or if you speak Spanish, "tres" would be three. This would make the planet's name 3-4, or Negative One. It fits, since the planet is going against theory...

      Okay, so I'm really stretching this.
  • Now we know where all those bottles go. They've formed their own damn planet!
  • Its a Jupiter Brain (Score:4, Informative)

    by bradbury (33372) <<Robert.Bradbury> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @01:06PM (#20159697) Homepage
    No self-respecting advanced technological civilization would bury significant amounts of useful matter at the center of a planet. They would instead construct objects filled with fiber optic cables to carry large amounts of data between all of the computational nodes. The compute nodes have to be on the surface because they have to radiate away the heat they generate but the central part of the Jupiter Brain (aka Borg sphere) should have a density low enough that gravitational compression doesn't distort the one-to-many point-to-point transmission over the fibers.

    The difference between a Jupiter Brain and a Matrioshka Brain is that the center of a Jupiter Brain is not running off of a gravitationally bound and driven fusion reactor (aka "star"). Most of the energy used by the Jupiter Brain comes from the external solar energy it absorbs (though in theory it could house a number of "small" fusion reactors fueled by hydrogen or helium siphoned from the nearby star).

    Side note to the Dyson "Sphere" advocates -- classical "spheres" are impossible (you've been watching too much Star Trek) -- Dyson never used the word "sphere" and made a point of clarifying this in his response to the letters following his original paper. A better term to avoid confusion is a "Dyson shell".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @01:09PM (#20159759)
    Are we sure NASA is reporting in inches and not centimeters?
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @01:15PM (#20159883) Journal
    Astronomers have given the planet an official name, "Puff Daddy".
    • by Sunburnt (890890) *
      Yeah, but you know they'll be changing it to something even sillier in a few years. I refuse to play this game and will call the planet by its given name, Sean Combs.
  • I am picutring some super-advanced civilization who is already bored with making Dyson Shells going

    Superbeing A:hey! what would happen if we built a full sized mock-up entierly out of balsa wood!
    Superbeing B:that sounds really pointless. where did you get such a stupid idea?
    Superbeing A:I heard it in some Fump song....
    Superbeing B:Cool! I'll go grab the supervodka and the meta-Dremal!
  • My theroy .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @01:53PM (#20160557)
    I saw someone mention a perhaps it has a ring like Saturn and that is causing some false readings. I figure they have presumably run into this before and know how to discount that. I will go one step further and say perhaps the planet has a crazy amount of moons orbiting closely and/or other debris of various sizes swirling around it. This would increase its size mistakenly and decrease its density at the same time (as there would be significate amounts of space between planet and orbits (presumably).

    Anyway thats the extent of my Grade 10 Physics, so please don't be too harsh with me! :)

    In any event, how "fluffy" a center are we talking here. What defines a "Planet" from a slight congealing of gas? I say if it isn't dense enough to crush the life out of me as I try and float through on a drunken spacewalk, then I don't think it is a real planet!

    Also perhaps we are looking too hard at what it is, and not what is could be or might become. Perhaps look at processes that make up our celestial bodies. I am not sure how concrete our science is as to the creation of various kinds of planets, perhaps this is part of the short (in space/planet creation terms) phase of planet construction. The gathering of a bunch of lose material that is slowing coalescing due to gravity into a rough planetoid. If the phase if brief in galactic terms perhaps this is why we haven't seen it before. The coalescing material not having totally solidified nor compress due to significant gravity and space could account for the light density and great size. A sort of proto-planet if you will, a huge glom of material just swirling around falling in towards itself slowly, just hasn't reached the stage that is it really recognizable as a real planet yet.

    Ok now I am really just wasting work time...
  • by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @04:10PM (#20162441)
    The quote from the scientists in the article are along the lines of:

    "TrES-4 appears to be something of a theoretical problem," said study team member Edward Dunham, also of the Lowell Observatory. "Problems are good, though, since we learn new things by solving them."


    While the title is "Scientists Puzzled" and emphasizes the lack of knowledge.

    Why is it that the obsession is with confusion rather than learning. At a time when many people are turning to stupidities like Intelligent Design because it claims to have "answers" perhaps some of the blame can be put on horrible reporting which seems unable to distinguish between finding new info and being "confused" "lost" or "puzzled".
  • by slagell (959298) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @04:18PM (#20162551) Homepage
    It seems the simplest explanation is one of the estimates or both have a large error. Measuring the mass and volume of things like this isn't easy, especially when it is so far away. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them is off by 50%. For example, they measure the mass by the effect of its gravity. This could be perturbed by another object(s) in the vicinity yet undiscovered. That seems more probably than a planet made of a compression resistant spongy material IMHO.

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