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Sizzling Weather On a Dive-Bombing Planet 57

Posted by timothy
from the much-sexier-after-computer-enhancement dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "A massive planet orbiting the star HD 80606 is on a roller-coaster orbit: it dive bombs the star, in just 55 days dropping from over 120 million km to just 4 million km from the star's surface! Astronomers used the Spitzer Space Telescope to observe the heat from the planet as it gets blasted by its star, and used that data to make a beautiful computer-modeled image of what the planet must look like. Their results: an ube-rviolent storm that acts as if a bomb were exploded in the planet's atmosphere."
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Sizzling Weather On a Dive-Bombing Planet

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  • Rotation Period (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:51AM (#26651023) Homepage Journal
    A planet which gets really close to its primary is more likely to be tide locked because of the energy lost when the tidal bulge moves around. Mercury is in a 2/3 resonance for this reason.

    If this planet is in a 1/1 resonance it will have one side which never gets baked at close approach, so conditions on the surface may not be as bad as they first seem.
    • Re:Rotation Period (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:58AM (#26651061)

      If this planet is in a 1/1 resonance it will have one side which never gets baked at close approach, so conditions on the surface may not be as bad as they first seem.

      If the winds are strong enough in the atmosphere and the atmosphere is thick enough, it may not matter what side of the planet you're on. Just like Venus, which rotates very slowly, but is pretty much the same sizzling hellhole regardless of whether you look at the day or night side.

      • With conditions this extreme, I wonder if there is an atmosphere. Would it not get ripped away?
        The article talks about supersonic winds - but how do we know?

        Perhaps the atmosphere regenerates as the planet moves away from the star, only to be ripped away again in some kind of Promethian nightmare

        • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:39AM (#26651887)

          With conditions this extreme, I wonder if there is an atmosphere. Would it not get ripped away?

          Considering that the planet in question has four times the mass of Jupiter, I would assume that it has more than enough gravity to hang on to its atmosphere.

          • > "A massive planet orbiting the star HD 80606 is on a roller-coaster orbit: it dive bombs
            > the star, in just 55 days dropping from over 120 million km to just 4 million km from the
            > star's surface! ... results: an ueberviolent storm that acts as if a bomb were exploded
            > in the planet's atmosphere."

            F***ing Republicans! >:(

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Within the article, you'll find that this is a gas giant. It's so large that its own gravitational effect causes its sun to swell on approach.
          • by HTH NE1 (675604)

            Within the article, you'll find that this is a gas giant. It's so large that its own gravitational effect causes its sun to swell on approach.

            So then weather is going to suck on pretty much every planet in that system.

    • by dov_0 (1438253)

      Such a massive change in temperature is going to cause hellish weather fluctuations and winds across the whole planet no matter which part of the planet you are on.

    • With 5km/s winds? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Moraelin (679338)

      First of all, we're talking a planet considerably heavier than Jupiter, so presumably a gas giant. Or anyway it will have quite the pressure.

      Second they said it produced explosive winds, up to 5 km/s. (Or "fucking unbelievably fast" in imperial units;) Because the air heats from 500 degrees to 1200 degrees on the hot side within hours, and expands, rushing towards the colder side.

      That's over 5 times the muzzle velocity of an M16, BTW.

      So, yeah, the conditions on the surface might not be as bad as they seem..

      • by Fluffeh (1273756)
        The article said that these speeds were in the upper atmosphere and while I admit that the ground isn't likely to be a picnic spot, it wouldn't be as bad.

        All in all, still likely to be low on the vacation list for centuries and centuries to come.
        • by Moraelin (679338)

          Well, how much slower would they be in the lower atmosphere? As the other poster pointed out, at the epicentre Nagasaki they had 1005 km/h winds. This has 3600s/h * 5km/s = 18000 km/h. So if at the ground the winds are "only" about 6% as bad, it would be "only" like being at ground zero of a nuke. For hours. That seems pretty bad all right :P

          • by Fluffeh (1273756)
            But think of how well you could fly a kite! I can see it now...

            Billy, have you tied your brick to the chain yet? Make sure to tie it on strong this time, you remember what happened to your last kite?

            On a more serious note though, even here on earth, the wind speeds up top are generally much much faster than on the ground. While uncommon, 250knot (That's almost 500km/h) have been picked up by passenger airliners [airliners.net] and they don't generally go that high - and the higher up you go, the faster winds get.

            S
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ambitwistor (1041236)

      The orbit is very highly eccentric, which means the usual theory of tidal locking doesn't apply. The research uses a theory of spin pseudo-synchronization (Eq. 18 of this paper [arxiv.org]) to derive the planet's rotation rate in relation to its orbit. They do note there is an alternate theory of spin synchronization that, for simplicity, they didn't consider in this paper.

  • Whoa! (Score:4, Funny)

    by dov_0 (1438253) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:53AM (#26651043)
    That's the biggest BBQ I've ever heard of!
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:18AM (#26651165) Homepage Journal
      ...though "Flamebait" seems strangely appropriate for this topic.
      • by jonadab (583620)
        Melbourne... Isn't that in Australia, and isn't it summertime there at the moment?

        No thanks, I'll keep the weather we've got here. I'm hoping for at least another foot of snow over the next month or so before it starts melting :-)
        • It has been horrible this week. It has been about the second or third hottest week on record. When it is 45C (~110 F) there is little to do apart from sit around and stew in the heat.

          The city's power supply has maxed out at 10000 MW because of demand from aircons. There is talk of introducing new power meters which charge higher prices when demand goes through the roof.

          On top of that we have had a run of bad luck. A truck got stuck with locked up air brakes on a train crossing. Half a million people cou
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:11AM (#26651115) Homepage Journal
    really really drunk.
  • Don't dumb it down. (Score:5, Informative)

    by syousef (465911) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:13AM (#26651133) Journal

    Dive-bombing? This isn't Pearl Harbour the movie. Try "highly elliptical" orbit, and "close approach" or "close proximity". This is /. not 5th grade.

    • by ozbon (99708)

      You must be new here...

    • This IS /. I actually got laid once in 5th grade!

    • by Nimey (114278)

      I'm having a hard time getting this... would someone re-post in terms of ping-pong balls?

    • by Sta7ic (819090)
      Seriously. When I first read that, I was wondering how a planet could play a guitar, much less commit tremolo [whammy bar] abuse.
  • Since fusion is not happening on the planet and it is a large gas planet, with a regular orbit one might expect a band structure of the atmosphere. As it is four times the mass of Jupiter (and thus likely larger), one might also expect that the storms are more intense, numerous, long-lived, and larger than on Jupiter occurring within the bands.

    My question to someone more knowledgeable is whether or not such a planet, as described in the article, could sustain some sort of atmospheric band structure on one s

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Urkki (668283)

      As it is four times the mass of Jupiter (and thus likely larger),

      Actually, Jupiter is about as big as they get, diameter-wise, all the way to brown dwarf stars. As mass increases, they only get denser, not bigger. Just consider Jupiter and Saturnus, their size is pretty close, though Jupiter has more than three times the mass

  • get a load of that :
     

    Such is the life of HD 80606b, a gas giant planet four times the mass of Jupiter that orbits a star 190 light years from Earth.

    and we think jupiter is huge. this thing is FOUR times the mass.

  • Anyone else reminded of the prison planet from Chronicles of Riddick?
  • "Accelerated by the starâ(TM)s gravity to a speed hundreds of times faster than a rifle bullet, the planet whips around the star and begins the long climb back."

    The Earth moves at about 100,000 km/h around the Sun.

    The FASTEST rifle bullet travels at 4000 fps.
    4000 Feet per Second = 4389.12 Kilometers per Hour.

    Earth travels 22 times faster than the fastest bullet! so this guy actually broke out a calculator and did some basic math! Very cool!

  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:25AM (#26653659)

    Civilization periodically destroyed every period due to the unique orbit of the planet.

  • Is it that one at the top? I get images like that looking cross-eyed at christmas lights. It's just a red blob with a blue corona on one side. I couldn't even tell it was supposed to be a planet unless someone told me.
    • by Lijemo (740145)
      If you link through to the article, the article links through to an academic paper. The academic paper contains images from the computer simulation. And yes, they are better than the image shown in the article.
      • Ahhh. There we go. Yes, quite lovely. Hard to imagine that kind of temperature flux in the time spans they are talking about. I must have missed the link because it was only a slightly darker brown than the surrounding text and not underlined. If it's not underlined, I'm not clicking on it. That's the way I like my Internets :)
  • Discover has REALLY gone downhill since Disney took over. In fact, that's when I quit taking the mag.

    I mean, really. We're treated to ridiculous non-science phrases such as "Still suffering from the heat, the planet...." and "...the planet cools. But it's not enough. It's never enough."

    A gas giant with no life "suffers". KA-WACK!!

    Pablum such as this is why I quit reading Discover a decade ago.

    There's only one thing I would really like to know: Whose 53 days are we talking about? The planet in question,

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Well, you might as well talk about it with such hyperbole, as the whole story is incredibly hyperbolic. It is a computer simulation of what might "possibly" be a planet. They were able to find some infrared signatures, and they turned that into an entire weather system? How many untestable assumptions have to be made along the way to get there from here?

  • by Ghworg (177484)

    It's the planet Trenco where the Thionite grows! Now we just need to find Arisia and we are set.

  • The larger questions is how can such a massive planet end up in such a elliptic orbit. Assuming the gas giant was made from the swirling dust cloud around the star to start with then it would be in a almost circular orbit. What could have happened to change the orbit as much as this?
    • by clonan (64380)

      The article mentioned that it was probably caused by the companion star in the binary system.

      Eventually this planet will collide with it's star and make a very pretty light show...

  • by Ferretman (224859)
    Wow. Just wow.

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