Thursday, March 31, 2016

HD 80606b Gets Pop Sci Written up

Since scientists started identifying lots of planets orbiting distant stars in the past decade, one of the weirder types is the surprisingly common "hot Jupiter" -- a gas giant like the ones we know that orbits very close to its star. Now NASA's Spitzer space telescope has spotted a particularly weird hot Jupiter that's more of a "very hot and cold Jupiter."

The planet, called HD 80606b, is about 190 light-years from Earth and has a highly eccentric orbit around its star that's more like that of a comet than the planets in our solar system. Every 111 days, the planet passes so close around its star that it almost touches it -- if it were able, it could probably reach out and high-five or fist-bump its sun. It then swings farther away from its star (a little less than the distance between our sun and Earth) before doing a U-turn at the other end of its elliptical orbit to repeat the cycle.

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