Most eccentric planet has been discovered!
Astronomer Stephen Kane (a member of the science team for two upcoming satellite missions. NASA’s TESS and CHEOPS) and a team of researchers have made an amazing discovery. They’ve spotted an extrasolar planet. The planet now known as “HD 20782,” is about 117 light-years away from the earth and it boasts the most eccentric orbit ever seen to date. The most eccentric planet has finally been discovered!
Stephen Kane and his team were able to detect a signal of reflected light from the newly discovered planet. It’s described as a “flash,” of starlight bouncing off the eccentric planet’s atmosphere. The ‘eccentric,’ planet shows how elliptical a planet’s orbit is around it’s star. And HD 20782 has the most eccentric orbit known to man. Measuring at an eccentricity of .96.
What is eccentricity? Defined by Google for you.
“Eccentricity is a measure of how an orbit deviates from circular. A perfectly circular orbit has an eccentricity of zero; higher numbers indicate more elliptical orbits. Neptune, Venus, and Earth are the planets in our solar system with the least eccentric orbits.”
What does this mean?
What does it mean when a planet’s orbit moves around it’s star at eccentricity of .96? It means that the planet moves in an almost flattened ellipse. It travels a long path far from its star and then makes a fast and furious slingshot around the star at its closest approach.
HD 20782 has provided a great observing opportunity for studying the planetary atmosphere. Especially because it’s a planet with an eccentric-orbit. This type of planet is not often seen in our very own solar system. Scientists have stated that if the reflected light of HD 20782 are studied we may learn more about the structure and composition of planets that can withstand a brief but blistering exposure to its lit star.
HD 20782 is a big question for astronomers at the moment because they cannot come up with the exact makeup of the newly discovered planet. But the new observation does suggest that it may have an atmosphere that’s “Jupiter-like,” with a highly reflective cloud cover.
Kane knows it can be a challenge to learn more, explaining it like a ‘murder scene,’ saying:
“When we see a planet like this that is in an eccentric orbit, it can be really hard to try and explain how it got that way,” he explained. “It’s kind of like looking at a murder scene, like those people who examine blood spatter patterns on the walls. You know something bad has happened, but you need to figure out what it was that caused it.” He continued “ There are few possible “suspects” in the case of HD 20782, Kane noted. It could be that there was originally more than one planet in the system, and one planet developed an unstable orbit that brought the two planets too close together. This collision or near-collision might have ejected one planet from the system entirely and pushed HD 20782 on its eccentric path. The planet is in a binary star system, so it might also be the case that the second star in the binary made a close approach that threw HD 20782 off a more circular orbit. “
Take a look at each of planets and their orbital eccentricity. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto have never measured at a .96. (interesting, don’t you think)?
It’s pretty cool that we are still discovering new planets in the solar system. I can’t wait to learn more about this one. That’s a pretty high measurement and there’s so much more out there we don’t know about, including the potential for discovering life on other planets.
Oh—the future is so unclear and I love it.
10 most fascinating things found in space!
- Stephen R. Kane, Robert A. Wittenmyer, Natalie R. Hinkel, Arpita Roy, Suvrath Mahadevan, Diana Dragomir, Jaymie M. Matthews, Gregory W. Henry, Abhijit Chakraborty, Tabetha S. Boyajian, Jason T. Wright, David R. Ciardi, Debra A. Fischer, R. Paul Butler, C.G. Tinney, Brad D. Carter, Hugh R.A. Jones, Jeremy Bailey, Simon J. O’Toole. Evidence for Reflected Light from the Most Eccentric Exoplanet Known.Astrophysical Journal, 2016 [link]
- http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-03/sfsu-mep031816.php (usage, no restrictions).