by Graham Pierrepoint
The hunt for new planets, stars and celestial bodies in our solar system and beyond continues on an almost constant basis – and while we may be yet to identify the much-rumored ‘Planet X’, there are discoveries and moves being made to advance space exploration each and every week. Last week was no different – as a rather odd exo-planet found hundreds of light years away could provide us with some form of clue as to how planets behave while in orbit. If you thought that space exploration and astronomy was more or less over and done with – you’d be far from right.
Astronomers have been able to find a new exoplanet – a body outside our own solar system. These far-flung planets behave somewhat oddly with regard to various stars and other neighboring planets – and the most recent discovery, dubbed HD76920b, is thought to be especially unique. Its orbit is one which is swinging so close to its star that it will alter and change to the extent that it will likely not survive in the long term.
It’s a gas planet, and it is thought to be altering shape and behavior the closer it swings to its host star, which is thought to be ancient in comparison with our own Sun. It’s been theorized that the planet’s orbit will ‘circularize’ as time moves on, as tides change as a result of the body swinging and swerving ever closer to the star. It’s an oddball of a planet – as it comes in close, and then as far away as twice the distance Earth is from the Sun. This odd behavior, as mentioned, is set to change in the long term – and it will also sadly mean that the catchy-named HD76920b will ultimately perish in a fireball.
It’s fascinating to see so many new celestial bodies and planets pop up on the radar – and while we may be some years away from finding intelligent life elsewhere in the solar system or even beyond, it is enlightening to find so many strange planets lurking around in the depths of the big, black void. Astronomers work tirelessly to expand our knowledge of the universe – and it’s thanks to them that we have so many interesting stories to write about! Keep your eyes on the skies for the next big discovery!