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A Planet That Orbits Its Star the Wrong Way

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the didn't-get-the-memo dept.

Space 257

Smivs writes "BBC News is reporting that astronomers have discovered the first planet that orbits in the opposite direction to the spin of its star. Planets form out of the same swirling gas cloud that creates a star, so they are expected to orbit in the same direction that the star rotates. The new planet is thought to have been flung into its 'retrograde' orbit by a close encounter with either another planet or with a passing star. The work has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal for publication. Co-author Coel Hellier, from Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, said planets with retrograde orbits were thought to be rare. 'With everything [in the star system] swirling around the same way and the star spinning the same way, you have to do quite a lot to it to make it go in the opposite direction.' Professor Hellier said a near-collision was probably responsible for this planet's unusual orbit. 'If you have a near-collision, then you'll have a large gravitational slingshot from that interaction,' he explained. 'This is the likeliest explanation. But it might be possible you can do it by gradually perturbing the orbit through the influence of a second planet. So far, we haven't found any evidence of a second planet there.'"

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Not a planet (-1, Troll)

haystor (102186) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060029)

Not a planet, it doesn't orbit our Sun. Dumbass IAU.

Re:Not a planet (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060091)

The prison niggers appreciate those crackers using physiks to find shit. Now we know we have whitey looking after universe and we look to take white dwarfs up the ass. It be the best thing to run a train on a chubby low self esteem white chick, fucking her pussy and asshole all night long. It is almost as good as tapping some puerto rican ass, but that shit is tighter and when that bitch get violent (PR chicks always do) we just duct tape that mouth shut while we take turns cumming in that ass over and over. Mexican bitches be the best cause you can run up on a bitch with a fat ass in broad daylight and run a pimp train on that bitch in her anus and that immigrant husband won't do shit. When we got some gay ass niggers who want to fuck some male asshole, we just run up on a mexican man, who they gonna report. Sometimes we just abduct the bitch to our projects apartment for the week and fuck the shit out of her, until we get tired of that bitch. White bitches are more fun though, sometimes when the bitch is chubby and horny enough we just fuck her through for 2 weeks and come back in another week cause her fat ass is ready for more. Smack bitches with a 10 inch cock. I once raped this indian chick, she was mad weak, so i got my boys to run a train on her that lasted 3 days. She looked like frosty the snowman after we all got done with cumming on her. She got that shit so hard she must of spit cum for a month. I recently visted her and punched her in the face before I got inside that ass again. We be abnormal.

cotton niggers, sand niggers, rice niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29061163)

kill all niggers

Maybe it was Kal-El? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060051)

You know, he has this thing about spinning planets the other way around...

Why do they blame the planet? (5, Interesting)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060057)

Maybe the sun reversed its spin.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (3, Informative)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060137)

They don't blame the planet, they blame a planet or a big body that passed its orbit.

The star is not a likely cause for its abnormal rotation, although that would make it far more interesting.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (4, Insightful)

srothroc (733160) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060173)

The way I read it is that the GP is not saying that the star CAUSED the retrograde orbit -- he's asking why everyone's asking how the PLANET's orbit changed rather than asking why the star's spin changed. For a car analogy.. it's like asking why the car pissed off the dog that's chasing it rather than why the dog is chasing the car.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (1)

srothroc (733160) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060157)

I think it would be orders of magnitude harder to reverse the spin of a large star than it would be to reverse the orbit of a planet, but I don't really know anything about celestial mechanics.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061085)

Sorry, this is only semi-related to your post, but I'd rather not look for a better place to post this: I don't know why the summary even proposes the "gradually by another planet" explanation of reversing the orbit of a planet. If it's so gradual, eventually it won't be orbiting at all (before it starts to go the other way), and it'll fall straight into the star... right?

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29061139)

Nevermind... I found the other thread with my exact comment by someone else... and the explanation.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (4, Insightful)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061171)

Depends on what gets perturbed, I guess.

Try not to think just in two dimensions. Imagine the orbit as a very large ring. Instead of thinking of it shrinking, imagine the ring pivoting out of the usual orbital plane. Imagine this ring slowly rotating. Eventually, it'll settle back to the plane yet the planet will be orbiting backwards relative the the original and the star's rotation.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060223)

The star is about six orders of magnitude heavier than the planet (think momentum). I've no idea how likely a star reversing its spin, but huge bits of rock often hit planets and I can see how a really big one might encourage a planet to do the same - without tearing it

asunder.

Might it not have been captured by the star, and formed elsewhere?

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060413)

I can see how a really big one might encourage a planet to do the same - without tearing it asunder.

And I bet you believe it in the movies when a shotgun blast picks up a 200 pound man and sends hm flying 15 feet through a window too?

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (5, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060275)

Sun's don't go both ways. They're all either straight or gay.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (1)

jmv (93421) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060431)

I wonder if that would be possible if the planet's star collided with a second star, which could have inverted the original momentum.

Re:Why do they blame the planet? (0, Redundant)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061229)

Or their solar system is like a really big washing machine.

and the planet is like the stapler I forgot to take out my pant's pocket.

Maybe its in the southern hemisphere of that star? (5, Funny)

randy of the redwood (1565519) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060071)

Doesn't everything rotate backwards if its from down under?

Re:Maybe its in the southern hemisphere of that st (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060303)

They determine the orbit by watching as the planet passes in front of the star. Somehow they determine which way the star spins and see the two are different. It doesn't matter if you see it from above or below.

Re:Maybe its in the southern hemisphere of that st (3, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060529)

You mean its an Australian planet, mate?

which left? (2, Funny)

lsdi (1585395) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060077)

British?

Important question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060095)

Do toilet flushes swirl in the opposite direction on this planet?

Poor Planet (5, Funny)

russlar (1122455) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060125)

All the other planets keep pointing and saying "You're doing it wrong!"

Re:Poor Planet (5, Funny)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060409)

It's different. Let's destroy it.

Re:Poor Planet (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060491)

All the other planets keep pointing and saying "You're doing it wrong!"

To which it keeps replying,"G'day mate."

Re:Poor Planet (1)

conlaw (983784) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060551)

All the other planets keep pointing and saying "You're doing it wrong!"

That's what folks always say about us lefthanders. And then you wonder why we're perturbed!

Re:Poor Planet (1)

fucket (1256188) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061361)

More like sinister, if you ask me.

Losing it's luster (1)

GreyLurk (35139) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060165)

I remember when the first proof of an extra-solar planet was found, and people were amazed. Now we're only mildly fased by a planet whose orbit is probably one in a million.

Amazing how far astronomy has come in the last decade or so.

I wonder how long until we figure out a way to detect inhabited planets. Can't be too far off.

Re:Losing it's luster (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060245)

Now we're only mildly fased by a planet whose orbit is probably one in a million.

Speak for yourself. This has been on my mind since I read about it this morning.

There is just so many possibilities and, for me, each one is amazing.

But don't worry. It's football season!

Re:Losing it's luster (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060423)

I wonder how long until we figure out a way to detect inhabited planets. Can't be too far off.

They're already working on that; I read something recently about a probe that they're testing on Earth right now (it's in space, looking at Earth as a control). It's later going to turn around and look at extrasolar planets for signs of things important to life.

However, we're still unable to detect Earth-size planets in other star systems, as most of the planets we've detected are Jupiter-sized or more, but they are detecting progressively smaller planets.

Re:Losing it's luster (4, Informative)

colonelxc (1467119) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060493)

They're already working on that; I read something recently about a probe that they're testing on Earth right now (it's in space, looking at Earth as a control).

I think you mean the LCROSS Spacecraft [slashdot.org]

Re:Losing it's luster (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060519)

Yep, that's the one. Thanks for that.
I especially liked the first comment about a false negative (for life) because of being over Detroit, and the reply who corrected him saying Detroit is full of rats and cockroaches.

Re:Losing it's luster (1)

GodotJr (613809) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060949)

Short attention span theater.

Re:Losing it's luster (1)

SBrach (1073190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060535)

What happens when it doesn't detect intelligent life on earth!!

Re:Losing it's luster (2, Insightful)

chromas (1085949) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060921)

It already hasn't

Re:Losing it's luster (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061065)

I believe its exact words were 'Mostly harmless.'

And to answer the other question, when you flush, the water not only spins the other way, it comes out after YOU, not out of sight.

Re:Losing it's luster (4, Informative)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060617)

However, we're still unable to detect Earth-size planets in other star systems, as most of the planets we've detected are Jupiter-sized or more, but they are detecting progressively smaller planets.

You're a bit behind on that. Planets that are well within one order of magnitude of the size of Earth have been discovered. This one [slashdot.org] may be less than twice the size of Earth.

Re:Losing it's luster (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060791)

I was looking at the stars one evening and the thought occurred to me that every star harbors a hideous mess; an immense collection of orbiting debris ranging from bloated gas giants with dozens of exotic moons to mangled chunks of gold weighing billions of tons. Those nice neat little points of light are actually solar systems, every bit as rich and complex as our own. Life, at least in primitive forms, is probably a common afterthought.

Think about the planet you're on now. Everything beyond iron is the shrapnel of stellar detonations coalesced and melted into a ball of metal orbiting the sun. Staggering quantities of baryons mushed together in weird configurations, colliding, erupting and aging for billions of years. Somewhere there is a near perfect sphere of nickel weighing five Earths and orbiting a black hole. It will be destroyed next week when it collides with and vanishes forever into the guts of an 9 billion year old brown dwarf. It will have never been observed by anything more sentient than a dusty comet.

When you really think about it the universe is creepy.

Extrasolar astronomy requires extraordinary equipment. We need to build more of it and figure out what the universe looks like below cosmological scales because we haven't got the first clue what's really out there. Humans were simply not endowed by nature with sufficient imagination to anticipate more than a small fraction of all the crazy shit we're going to find.

I'm no astrophysicist... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060167)

but wouldn't this type of retrograde orbit be possible if the planet had gone "rouge" from it's original system and was then captured in the gravity well of its current parent star?

Re:I'm no astrophysicist... (1)

nofx_3 (40519) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060217)

This is exactly what I was thinking. A rouge planet could have been knocked out of orbit from a weak star and captured by this no star. The direction the star rotates wouldn't impact the captured planets orbit, the only important factor would be the mass of the star and if it was enough to capture the planet at the planets nearest approach.

Re:I'm no astrophysicist... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060281)

A rouge planet

What does Mars have to do with this?

Re:I'm no astrophysicist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060299)

Yep, those pesky red French planets will follow any weak star.

lol .. the CAPTCHA is "revolved"

Re:I'm no astrophysicist... (1)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060801)

I imagine it would be highly unlikely for the planet to be captured by the star and just happen to start rotating in the same plane as the star's rotation. If it were captured, it would have just as likely got an orbit whose rotation was perpendicular to the star's spin.

This is part of the argument as to why Pluto isn't a planet; it doesn't rotate in the same plane as all the other planets and sun's spin. So it's likely that it wasn't formed along with the rest of the solar system. Of course, if a planet can rotate backwards due to some close encounter with another object, I guess Pluto's orbit could have been knocked about too.

Re:I'm no astrophysicist... (4, Informative)

Slammer64 (1031980) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060729)

It's rogue dammit, ROGUE!

Re:I'm no astrophysicist... (1)

GodotJr (613809) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060937)

It's rogue dammit, ROGUE!

{Sigh} Thank G*d it's not just me.

Re:I'm no astrophysicist... (1)

Slammer64 (1031980) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061223)

Every time I see rouge, I think of blush and foundation makeup. like my ex used to cake on.

Lets ask Dr. Pauli (1)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060199)

Are we forgetting the Pauli Exclusion Principle? There must have been another planet in that orbit at some point causing the opposite spin since no 2 orbiting bodies can occupy the same quantum state unless they have opposite spins.

Re:Lets ask Dr. Pauli (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060621)

Interesting idea. But applying quantum mechanics on such an astronomical scale is like...well...apples to oranges....(cliche lameness sigh....)

Re:Lets ask Dr. Pauli (2, Informative)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060725)

Not as apples to oranges as you think. Astronomical models are actually what inspired the model of the atom and some of the basic quantum theories.

Captured object? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060279)

Might it not be an object captured by the star's gravity while it was passing by on the side opposite to the star's spin? I would say it's a lot more likely that a collision moved a planet out of its orbit entirely (as opposed to reversing it), and it was subsequently captured by a nearby star (where it happened to get captured counter-spinwise). On the other hand, nearby stars tend to be pretty damn far apart, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

Re:Captured object? (1)

ogre7299 (229737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060563)

While it is possible, it would probably be extremely unlikely. The odds are pretty slim for a planet to be stripped from one star and then captured again by another star. Space is just too damn empty, on average there is only 1 star per cubic parsec and the orbit of earth is 1/206625 pc.

Interactions with other giant planets in the system are probably the most likely explanation as they talk about in the article. Three-body interactions can have pretty crazy outcomes, astrophysically and for life in general :)

Re:Captured object? (2, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060631)

The odds are pretty slim for a planet to be stripped from one star and then captured again by another star.

How about a direct capture, from an near-encounter with another star? That is, similar to the explanation in TFA, except that the planet originally belonged to the other star.

"But it might be possible... (4, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060309)

"...you can do it by gradually perturbing the orbit through the influence of a second planet" claims the article.

But, if it were to happen slowly, doesn't that imply that at some point it has a minimal orbital speed (if that's the correct term), and would fall right in? Seems to me that if it reversed direction, it must have been a relatively quick event. Unless, perhaps, the planet ends up being sent away from the star, and is then recaptured in a retrograde orbit. But, that's still not a "gradual perturbation."

Re:"But it might be possible... (5, Insightful)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060363)

Er, no. The idea is that the inclination of the orbit keeps getting larger until the planet is orbiting "backwards." The planet doesn't stop and reverse its orbit.

Cheers,
Dave

Odd, then... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060485)

that this is the first planet found with such an orbit. Would it not require a lengthy sequence of "just right" nudges to produce that outcome? Statistically, wouldn't the second planet be just as likely to pull the first back toward an equatorial orbit on each encounter? Are the orbital mechanics such that retrograde planets coexisting with prograde planets is more stable than, say, having planets end up in polar or high inclination orbits?

Finally, the article explains how they can tell which direction the planet crosses the star, but how do you tell which way the star is rotating?

Re:Odd, then... (2, Insightful)

needs2bfree (1256494) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060541)

I would think that one side of the star would be blueshifted, the other side redshifted ever so slightly.
I also wonder if the planet suffers more collisions than it would otherwise.

Re:Odd, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060605)

Nope. It would just take one swift hit normal to the plane of the ecliptic to cause the angle of inclination to steadily change until it was revolving backward. However, the inclination may still be changing for all I know.

Re:"But it might be possible... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060611)

To put this in analogy form:
Picture someone making a pizza, when they spin it and throw it up in the air it lands spinning the same way. But if the pizza flips over in mid-air the rotation will be reversed when it lands but it didn't have to stop and reverse direction to do it.

Oh, and somehow a car is involved.

Re:"But it might be possible... (5, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060385)

No. Here's the ASCII art.

<--O--<

^
-
  O
   -
    ^

   ^
   -
   O
   -
   ^

     ^
    -
   O
  -
^

>--O-->

Re:"But it might be possible... (4, Interesting)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060405)

In this case, it's really the angle of the orbit that would be perturbed. Eventually it would be orbiting above and below the north and south poles of the star, and then perturbed even further until it was rotating the wrong direction. In that sense, it's actually orbiting in the correct direction, just offset 180degrees.

A similar explanation is often used to describe the fact that Uranus rotates clockwise, whereas all the other planets in our solar system rotate counter-clockwise. (Note, rotation != revolution. Rotation == spin, revolution = orbit). Effectively, virtually all the angular momentum of any given solar system is in the same direction. The odd object's motion may be twisted into appearing the wrong way by some dramatic celestial event.

Re:"But it might be possible... (3, Informative)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061191)

A similar explanation is often used to describe the fact that Uranus rotates clockwise...

Er, Venus I mean. Uranus is slightly stranger...

Re:"But it might be possible... (2, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060821)

"...you can do it by gradually perturbing the orbit through the influence of a second planet" claims the article.

Even if I had a second planet, I could probably figure out waaay more productive things to do with it than piss off the orbit of my first planet. That kind of puerile use of a natural resource on such a massive scale would probably only serve to perpetuate the vicious cycle of interplanetary-domestic-violence that has ruined so many healthy, loving solar systems. On behalf of Solar Family Therapists everywhere I'm ashamed that this Prof. Hellier condones such a flagrant misuse of such a precious resource.

Re:"But it might be possible... (2, Informative)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060915)

But, if it were to happen slowly, doesn't that imply that at some point it has a minimal orbital speed (if that's the correct term), and would fall right in?

In a 2 dimensional universe, yes. In this one? No. It implies that the plane of the orbit rotates through 180 degrees much like (here it comes everyone) a car tyre when you do a U-turn. It keeps rotating but eventually ends up going the other way.

Re:"But it might be possible... (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061109)

If this were a movie then Mr. Spock would say that your pattern indicates two dimensional thinking.

Then, Captain Kirk would pound you in the butt in a totally heterosexual way with photon torpedoes.

I think it's a good thing that we aren't in a movie.

I know this one! (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060323)

Oooh ooh, it's called a DoppelgÃnger [wikipedia.org] ! And there are people there just like us.

Anti-spiral planet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060345)

Anti-spiral planet! ... Sorry.

Yeah well... (1)

Hailth (1479371) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060349)

From the summary, "...so they are expected to orbit in the same direction that the star rotates."

Yeah, well there's all kinds of surprises about the way things revolve. I say we name this planet the Australian Sink.

Maybe the planet's not native to that star. (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060399)

IIRC, our solar system was not original part of the Milky Way, but was from some smaller dwarf galaxy that got absorbed into it. There could have been a parallel here which might be easier to explain it.

God was drunk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060479)

God was drunk on the day he made that planet!!!

Opposite spin (5, Informative)

StartCom (1018308) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060509)

Well, in our solar system at least one planet is spinning the other way around: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_does_venus_spin_the_other_way [answers.com] It's not quite the same like orbiting into the opposite direction, but the Venus apparently received a nudge or two as well in order to spin the other way around. Such accidents appear to happen.

Passing Star... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060515)

Well, if I would have a "close encounter" with a star passing, gas, I too would be made to go in the opposite direction. XD

were thought to be rare? (4, Insightful)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060521)

planets with retrograde orbits were thought to be rare

Since this is the only one that's been found, I'd say that planets with retrograde orbits are still thought to be rare.

Re:were thought to be rare? (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060815)

There have only been a few hundred extra-solar planets found, so finding one that has a retrograde orbit is surprising if they were thought to be much less probable than 0.5% or so.

It all depends on the meaning of "rare", which is one of those innumerate words we ought to be doing without.

Re:were thought to be rare? (1)

OnlyPostsWhilstDrunk (1605753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060943)

You sure? From the way that they detect planets so far away, couldn't it be possible that these will especially stand out? So maybe we find them 1 in 100, but they exist 1 in 100,000?

You insensitive clods! (3, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060665)

Why does everything different have to be labeled 'wrong'?

Axial Tilt? (2, Insightful)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060671)

Instead of spinning the "wrong" way, couldn't the planet just have a 180 degree axial tilt, sort of like Uranus has a pretty steep 97 degree tilt. At 180 degrees, it would be right sight up by a different perspective, but spinning the opposite direction as the star.

Re:Axial Tilt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29060811)

Yeah, just like a mirror doesn't really flip your left and right sides. It actually flips up and down...

Two things... (1)

RawsonDR (1029682) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060911)

  • It's not spinning the opposite way, it's orbiting the opposite way.
  • That's like saying your bicycle wheel was flipped over before it was attached. If it's symmetrical, who says which way is correct? It's not then going to spin 'backwards' when you move forward. Any concept of 'this end goes up' in space is purely man made.

How about (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060703)

the planet wasn't spawned by that particular star? Maybe it's a capture. I would imagine that a capture doesn't have to go with the spin, or against the spin - it could orbit from pole to pole.

Phhhht. I should have been an astronomer, huh?

Re:How about (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061099)

Maybe if I could think of a way for a fully-formed planet to escape its system intact. It'd take a damn heavy body and an incredibly unlikely interaction.

(And by the way, I think if a planet's axis made a radical change, the poles would change as well. But I'm not sure.)

Re:How about (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061225)

But - what if the planet weren't intact yet, when the capture was made? Two stars passing close together, one or both capture some of the matter swirling around the other star. It's still hot and gaseous, but orbiting in the opposite direction. Only later does it cool, coalesce, and eventually form a planet. I suppose it's more likely that an older star stole the matter from a young star - if they were both young stars, the captured matter would have been more likely to have met resistance, and eventually been forced into a more conventional orbit.

Re:How about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29061371)

I would think that a polar orbit would be very difficult to maintain if there are other large planets orbiting the star.

Not the first (1, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060795)

BBC News is reporting that astronomers have discovered the first planet that orbits in the opposite direction to the spin of its star.

Um, except for Venus, Uranus and Pluto [nasa.gov] anyway. If you count Pluto as a planet.

Re:Not the first (4, Informative)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060945)

Venus SPINS opposite of the rest of planets. It orbits in the same direction. Uranus' axis of rotation is rotated 90 degrees, so it lies nearly in the solar plane. But it orbits like the rest of the planets. Pluto has a retarded orbit (no, that's not a scientific term), but its still going in the same direction. You mixed up orbit and rotation.

Re:Not the first (0, Redundant)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061107)

You mixed up orbit and rotation.

Quite correct. My mistake.

Re:Not the first (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061203)

Pluto is a Kuiper belt object anyhow. Objects that small in the vicinity of gas giants can get tossed into all sorts of orbits -- inclined, retrograde, highly elliptical -- but it would take quite a slingshot effect to get a large rocky planet or a gas giant going "the wrong way".

One way I can imagine a smaller object getting that way is if it never really reverses direction, the inclination just keeps increasing until it actually crosses perpendicular to the plane of the planets. Eventually it could get back into a fairly normal inclination but going backward because it has wrapped around. Again I can't see this working with a large planet -- once inclined, it would probably just stay that way since whatever large mass flung it out in the first place is now too far away to continue tilting it.

I wouldn't be all that amazed if it turns out the planet was a wanderer that got captured, and it isn't native to that solar system.

Mal-2

Re:Not the first (1)

sdpuppy (898535) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061321)

Pluto has a retarded orbit (no, that's not a scientific term)

Actually it is. Well, kind of:

Orbits Using Retarded Fields
http://authors.aps.org/eprint/files/1997/Jul/aps1997jul09_006/main.html [aps.org]

An economical semi-analytical orbit theory for retarded satellite motion about an oblate planet

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1980fmet.sympQ....G [harvard.edu]

and I would not be too far from correct terminology in saying that Earth's orbit is degenerate in the plane of Mars' orbit, no?

Re:Not the first (1)

Binestar (28861) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061045)

Rotation != Orbit

Remember Encarta orbit simulator? (1)

atmurray (983797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060831)

Maybe the current version could be used to simulate how this happened? :P I used to play with that thing in the high school library far too much during library classes (hey, this was before schools had the internet). It was always fun making the moon crash into earth.

In soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Samah (729132) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060879)

Planet orbits you!

You are going to Kill Someone...... (4, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060897)

This evokes that scene from "Trains Planes and Automobiles"......

Re:You are going to Kill Someone...... (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061323)

Thanks for the laugh. That is one of my all-time favorite comedy scenes. I laugh every time I think of it.

possibly more simple explanation (1)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060961)

Couldn't it be a rogue planet that was captured into orbit due to it coming in at that direction?

I can't imagine something impacting a planet and making it reverse direction without turning it into dust. And I can't imagine the odds of something near-missing precisely right to cause a complete reversal in direction. I would think a rogue planet-like object getting captured traveling the opposite direction would be far more likely.

I know planets will can get kicked off their orbits from an impact and be launched out into the great emptiness, I recall reading a slashdot article on that many many moons ago....

Also, given the fact that we found this situation - considering the percentage of planets we have observed versus the amount of planets out there (which would be an extremely small percent), I would think it's likely that this is not an uncommon occurance.

(I am not a professional in anything other than database programming, but I do read up on astrophysics stuff for fun cause it's interesting. I'm sure I'm wrong in 87 different ways, feel free to let me know =)

Gradual Perturbation (1)

pgn674 (995941) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060963)

But it might be possible you can do it by gradually perturbing the orbit through the influence of a second planet. So far, we haven't found any evidence of a second planet there.

Wouldn't a slowly perturbed planet fall into it's star once it reached stand still or near to it? Or maybe it was perturbed while way out far from the star, and then managed to reverse and miss the star as it fell towards it, and somehow got a near circular orbit again. I'd like to see what the path for a theoretical gradual perturbation and orbit reversal would look like.

Re:Gradual Perturbation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29061187)

(cos(t), sin(t)*cos(0.001*t), sin(t)*sin(0.001*t))

- circular orbit in the xy plane around t=0
- circular orbit in the xz plane around t=500*pi
- retrograde orbit in the xy plane around t=1000*pi

Is it really a planet? (2, Funny)

xaboo (1599655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060969)

It is probably not a planet. It is a Death Star. Lord Vader is near!

It's obvious. (1)

superdave80 (1226592) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060997)

I'm not entirely sure how, but I know global warming is involved in some way.

IIRC, sun is also a star... (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061019)

... can't we send Superman to make it spin the other way to have normal time and not going back in time? :P

LOL (1)

CRiMSON (3495) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061075)

*point laugh* Look it's failplanet!!!!

Like an 'Above the Influence' Ad for Galaxies (1)

detox.method() (1413497) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061159)

"This is your planet on drugs."

Red Dwarf (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061307)

It's pretty obvious the planets backwards orbit is due to a drunk space bum playing pool with planets [youtube.com]
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