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Space Science

Fomalhaut's Exoplanets Have Orbits That Defy Theory 43

Posted by Soulskill
from the home-of-the-utwig dept.
astroengine writes "Astronomers believe they have found a second distant planet around Fomalhaut, a bright young neighbor star, and that the far-out world — like its sister planet — is shepherding and shaping the star's ring of dust. If confirmed, theorists have some work to do explaining how the planet, believed to be a few times bigger than Mars, ended up 155 times as far away from its parent star as Earth is to the sun. 'We're learning a lot about planets that are close to their stars, but that is not the full picture. We also want to know about systems where planets are very far out. By considering near-, far- and mid-range, we can get a complete picture of planet formation,' University of Florida astronomer Aaron Boley said." There was another fascinating bit of news about Fomalhaut a few days ago: "ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory has studied the dusty belt around the nearby star Fomalhaut. The dust appears to be coming from collisions that destroy up to thousands of icy comets every day."
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Fomalhaut's Exoplanets Have Orbits That Defy Theory

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  • Re:Theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sysrammer (446839) on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:14PM (#39680229) Homepage

    No, that's a hypothesis.

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:18PM (#39680279)

    They're just a little higher on the Kardashev scale [wikipedia.org] than astronomers can imagine.
    Meh, I've read about stuff like this since I was a kid.

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Friday April 13, 2012 @07:13PM (#39680857)

    Since it formed very early on, it's most likely a proto-planet rather than a mature planet. Planetary theory is only designed for mature planets, because statistics doesn't apply to extremely small numbers and extremely small numbers is exactly what you have when dealing with proto-planets. Ergo, the theory cannot be applied sensibly, ergo there is no theory that can be described as being defied.

    There's also the possibility of captured planets since there are believed to be a large number that form in the outer fringes of systems and in interstellar space. They are believed to be a large part of the missing matter. It's a tricky balance capturing a planet that far out due to the extremely low gravity. Odds are they'd have a very elliptical orbit much like Pluto.

  • by bistromath007 (1253428) on Friday April 13, 2012 @08:34PM (#39681489)
    When I first read the bit about what the planets are doing, my immediate thought was "mining." That's not the interesting part, just a thought I had.

    The interesting part: what if I was right, and we carried right on with attempting to jam this observation into our understanding of the universe? What if we saw lots of mining ops, or beacons? (Seems to me they'd be indistinguishable from wacky pulsars unless they were doing some silly "trying to make first contact" trick.) What if we wound up with all manner of complex theories about how things behave in deep space that seem to have nothing to do with the real world? What if we got stuck here because of it?

    It feels like something one of the old-school hard-SF authors would've done a short story about at some point. Any recommendations?

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