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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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  • So... what is the theory that its defying? Don't see that part in the summary or in a skimming of the article. All I see is them saying we don't know enough about this yet to even have a theory.

    • Re:Theory (Score:4, Funny)

      by dunng808 (448849) <osp.aloha@com> on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:13PM (#39680211) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps the Empire has been testing its fully operational Death Star. Just a theory.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Planetary formation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FunkDup (995643)

      So... what is the theory that its defying?

      I think the theory is that rocky planets and dusty rings should be orbiting much closer to a star that's only twice as big as ours.

      The suspected planet would be the second planet found orbiting Fomalhaut, a very bright star located about 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. Fomalhaut is twice as big as our sun and encircled by a disk of dust 16 times wider than the span between the sun and Earth.
      The inner edge of the ring is about 135 times as far as away from the star as Earth is to the sun.

    • by sk999 (846068)

      It is the same theory that says that all those Jupiter-sized planets that we are finding closer to their parent stars than is Mercury couldn't possible exist.

      It is also the same theory that says that Pluto is not a planet.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      So... what is the theory that its defying? Don't see that part in the summary or in a skimming of the article. All I see is them saying we don't know enough about this yet to even have a theory.

      The real theory, and it is a thin one, is that "WE" understand our own planetary system.
      The Sumerians knew more about the outer planets than we do, six, ten, you pick a number, thousands of years ago. The arrogance of religion and its just as arrogant counterpart, science; knows even less.
      Sure, sure, we're gaining by leaps and bounds at the LHC says the child playing with matches.

      • The Sumerians knew more about the outer planets than we do, six, ten, you pick a number, thousands of years ago. The arrogance of religion and its just as arrogant counterpart, science; knows even less.

        They weren't even aware half of the outer planets existed, so your claim is very unlikely to be true.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:18PM (#39680273) Homepage Journal

    More facts, theories expand.

    Love it.

  • 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 oldhack (1037484) on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:25PM (#39680349)
    Astrophysics seems to be an entertaining field - a surprise every other week. Sure beats particle physics.
    • by bobwrit (1232148)
      Physics in general would be interesting to work in. Unless it's classical mechanics. Then I'd probably get bored :/
      • You can generally get beer at classical mechanics (pool) halls.

      • Physics in general would be interesting to work in. Unless it's classical mechanics. Then I'd probably get bored :/

        Huh, classical mechanics and boring? Ever since we got computers, I'd say that classical mechanics got much more intriguing than it has ever been. Just think of space probe navigation between the Solar system bodies and the Interplanetary Transport Network, for example.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:38PM (#39680477) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • 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.

    • Since it formed very early on

      There's also lots of chaos in early solar systems. Something knocked Uranus on its side and some models show it and Neptune originally orbiting inside of Jupiter's orbit.

      As you say, the models of the mature stable solar system don't apply.

      • There's also lots of chaos in early solar systems. Something knocked Uranus on its side and some models show it and Neptune originally orbiting inside of Jupiter's orbit.

        The model I'm familiar with suggests Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all formed closer to the Sun then they are currently, with Neptune's and Uranus's relative positions reversed.

        At some point Jupiter and Saturn formed a 2:1 orbital resonance and this caused the entire Solar System to be disrupted... Jupiter moved inward, the other large planets moved outwards (with Neptune being pushed past Uranus), and lots of junk started falling into the inner Solar System (the "Early Heavy Bombardment")

        A basic observation

  • The only solution is to send researchers there and see if their dead girlfriends start showing up.
  • 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?
  • So, they are estimating that the number of comets destroyed daily by collisions is somewhere between 0 and 999,999. A little vague, don't you think?

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