Skip to content

Kamikaze Planet

August 28, 2009
Some as-yet-unknown manifestation of tidal forces could prolong the planet’s life by as much as 500 million years. That’s because the close and fierce interaction between two large and essentially gaseous bodies could produce turbulence or other effects that could somehow cancel out WASP-18b’s orbital deterioration. Astronomers may know whether that’s happening within a decade or so, Collier Cameron says.

“It’s the find of a lifetime,” says astronomer Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park. “The beauty of this discovery is that we will be able to know [how WASP-18b will meet its end] within 5 to 10 years,”Hamilton says. “I think that it could go either way–which makes it very exciting.”
Very interesting!

clipped from sciencenow.sciencemag.org
Astronomers have found a giant planet orbiting so close to its parent star that it’s bound to spiral inward to its doom or else be ripped to shreds by the star’s gravity. Either way, the planet called WASP-18b should provide astronomers with a mother lode of data about the delicate gravitational balancing act that affects all solar systems.

Picture of Exoplanet WASP-18b
WASP-18b and its star are so close to each other that it takes the planet
less than a day to complete a revolution. As it orbits, WASP-18b drags bulges tens of kilometers high around the star’s equator, making it spin faster. Those same forces also cost the planet its angular momentum, pulling it inward, eventually to the point where it will smash into the star’s surface. Or perhaps it will be shredded to form a Saturn-like ring system. In either case, WASP-18b appears doomed to die within half a million years.
Or maybe not.
“It’s the find of a lifetime,”
“I think that it could go either way–which makes it very exciting.”
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: