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Astrophysicists Find "Impossible" Planet

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the just-like-global-warming dept.

Space 436

SpuriousLogic writes "Scientists have discovered a planet that shouldn't exist. The finding, they say, could alter our understanding of orbital dynamics, a field considered pretty well settled since the time of astronomer Johannes Kepler 400 years ago. The planet is known as a 'hot Jupiter,' a gas giant orbiting the star Wasp-18, about 330 light years from Earth. The planet, Wasp-18b, is so close to the star that it completes a full orbit (its "year") in less than an Earth day, according to the research, which was published in the journal Nature. Of the more than 370 exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than our sun — discovered so far, this is just the second with such a close orbit. The problem is that a planet that close should be consumed by its parent star in less than a million years, say the authors at Keele University in England. The star Wasp-18 is believed to be about a billion years old, and since stars and the planets around them are thought to form at the same time, Wasp-18b should have been reduced to cinders ages ago."

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436 comments

Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (0, Troll)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29215989)

How presumptuous is it for these physicists to make claims about exoplanets, when no one has been able to visit them to confirm anything that our measurements are telling us *might* be out there? How confident is astrophysics in what they're seeing and interpreting?

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (5, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216053)

This study does demonstrate that either the measurements are wrong or our understanding of orbital dynamics is wrong. Knowing the former is important because it tells us we have to alter how we make the measurements and knowing the latter is important because it tells us we have to alter our understanding of physics. So it's the very antithesis of hubris.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216111)

Not necessarily. Maybe something knocked it out of its regular orbit and it's spiraling into the star. Maybe we're just witnessing its death.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (4, Informative)

MollyB (162595) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216401)

from TFA:

A second possibility is that the planet hasn't been in its current position very long, Hellier said. Wasp-18b could have spiraled inward to its current position over millions of years. It may have been bumped out of its original orbit by another planet, for example.

"However, that does not solve the problem," Hellier said, because the planet's lifetime should still be very short and it would be very unlikely for his team to find it where it did.

hth

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216495)

""However, that does not solve the problem," Hellier said, because the planet's lifetime should still be very short and it would be very unlikely for his team to find it where it did."

Unlikely != impossible. And I'd even question the unlikely bit. With many researchers looking for interesting objects, don't be surprised when you find...an interesting object.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (4, Insightful)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216541)

Absolutely. However, scientists get nervous when they see something this unlikely, especially with such a small sample of similar systems to date. Often, such weirdness means something else is going on that we didn't consider, so the nervousness is justifiable in the general case.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (5, Informative)

Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216465)

This story appeared in USA Today [usatoday.com] yesterday. From the article:

Astronomers have found what appears to be a gigantic suicidal planet.

The odd, fiery planet is so close to its star and so large that it is triggering tremendous plasma tides on the star. Those powerful tides are in turn warping the planet's zippy less-than-a-day orbit around its star.

The result: an ever-closer tango of death, with the planet eventually spiraling into the star.

It is a slow death. The planet WASP-18b has maybe a million years to live, said planet discoverer Coel Hellier, a professor of astrophysics at Keele University in England. Hellier's report on the suicidal planet is in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

"It's causing its own destruction by creating these tides," Hellier said.

Putting aside the sensationalist journalism (calling it a "suicidal planet"), it appears that its proximity to its star is causing plasma tides on the star (similar to the tides we have here on Earth due to the Moon), and those tides are warping the planets orbit.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216533)

This is the problem with science journalism...it tries to jazz up stories to make them more interesting to the layperson, but in the process ends up making scientists look like idiots. I seriously doubt these astrophysicists discovered this planet and immediately ran to the nearest reporter, and breathlessly declared that 400 years of accumulated knowledge in orbital dynamics is wrong because they just discovered an "impossible" planet.

What probably happened is something more like this:

An astrophysicist and a journalist sit at a bar after a long day's work looking through telescopes/making shit up.

Journalist: Anything interesting happen today?
Astrophysicist: Actually, yes. We discovered a planet orbiting around another star.
Journalist: Another one? I said interesting, not yet another stupid gas-ball orbiting around another star...that's page H12 at best.
Astrophysicist: Well, the funny thing is, this star is orbiting closer to its star than it ought to be able to...so it's kind of weird.
Journalist: (rolling eyes) So what?
Astrophysicist: The orbit its in should be unstable...it should eventually fall into the star and burn up.
Journalist: Okay, so we have some planet that might be about to burn up...okay, we're probably page 5C with that one.
Astrophysicist: Sure, that's probably what will happen. Of course, if the orbit its in is somehow stable, which is impossible, that would mean 400 years of understanding in orbital dynamics is wrong...(chuckles)...but of course that's ridiculous.
Journalist: 400 years of physics wrong? Impossible planet? I smell a Pulitzer! To the presses!
Astrophysicist: Hey, wait! Come back! That's not what I said...Oh well, at least I can use his article in my next grant application.

Aaaaaand...scene!

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (5, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216741)

Fox News Journalist: Impossible planet discovered. Will Obama's nazi socialist policies tax the good citizens of Wasp-18b until they commit suicide by diving into their sun? Find out at 8pm on The Factor!
MSNBC Journalist: Impossible planet discovered. Will Dick Cheney come back to power and invade it on false pretenses? Find out at 8pm on Countdown!
CNN Journalist: Impossible planet discovered. Watch our exciting report wherein we will use cutting edge technology to display an image of this planet above a floating pie chart!
Tabloid Journalist: Loch Ness Monster seen again! Read the shocking new evidence that proves she hails from Wasp-18b!
Slashdot Editor: Astrophysicists Find "Impossible" Planet
Different Slashdot Editor a week later: Astrophysicists Find "Impossible" Planet

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

Tailsfan (1200615) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216651)

good point. maybe it formed much further out and has been spiralling inward ever since.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

alvieboy (61292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216145)

Or other forces are acting on the planet besides gravitational force. We actually do not understand all forces we theorized so far.

----
Best sig: SIGSEGV

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216251)

That would fall under "our understanding of orbital dynamics is wrong".

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216257)

Or it started out at a farther out orbit and is now within a million years of destruction?

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

petaflop (682818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216349)

Orbital dynamics is rather unlikely to be the problem, given the vast pool of data to support it. Our understanding of the tidal interactions between planets and stars, which is the basis of the expected orbital decay, requires rather more levels of inference and are based on considerably more tenuous data. This is where I would be looking for the problems.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216355)

Or the third option - the orbit it has now isn't the original orbit. Plenty possibilities here.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216413)

You forgot about the fourth option. Cheeseburgers.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216549)

that would be fifth. four always is ????

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216517)

Or the third option - the orbit it has now isn't the original orbit.

That's pretty much a given, with that orbit.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (3, Insightful)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216409)

It implies no such thing. Given the evidence, I would suggest that by far the most likely explanation is something that the authors of paper themselves suggest; something has happened since to knock a planet into a close orbit of the star. There are many explanations that don't require a modification of orbital mechanics (pretty much any modification that is big enough to produce this planet with no external influence, would give an effect that is observable within out solar system), why assume that such a modification is required? The slashdot headline is inflammatory, it is a "puzzle" (the article headline), not "impossible" (the slashdot headline).

Or maybe (4, Funny)

sxltrex (198448) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216597)

Or maybe that's one fucking badass planet. The lesson to be learned here is do not fuck with Wasp-18b.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216065)

At a distance of 330 light years from Earth... an error of only a few millions km isn't impossible...
Perhaps the light got dis

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

azior (1302509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216643)

At a distance of 330 light years from Earth... an error of only a few millions km isn't impossible...
Perhaps the light got dis

...what?

distorted?
disrupted?
disarmed?
disturbed?
disambiguated?
disapointed?
disassemble?
distilled?
dismissed?
dissed?

I think you accidentally the whole

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (4, Insightful)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216131)

Why do you think physicists need to visit a planet to be able to make reliable measurements about them? I would expect that they can have confidence in their measuring equipment in the same way that you can have confidence that the sun will rise in the morning. After all, you have never been there, how can you know anything about how it works?

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (3, Insightful)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216263)

Hmm, I was trying to find a good analogy. This isn't a good one. I was thinking about a prototype jet, and why would one belive that it should fly on its first test flight. Experiments have experimental error. But any researcher who is worth their salt has some idea of how large that error is. Basically, you are accusing the researchers of incompetence. Have you ever used binoculars? Why do you trust what you see, if you haven't been there to see it yourself?

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216345)

Why do you think physicists need to visit a planet to be able to make reliable measurements about them?

I'm not saying that, exactly; I'm saying that when we measure things, we have greater confidence in them when we have multiple ways of measuring, and they all agree.

Visiting and making more direct observations would be such a way; I can't really think of any others, since I'm not actually a scientist.

But it seems to me that if we had multiple independent confirmations of the observation, using different methodologies, and they all agreed, we'd be much more confident in the interpretations and conclusions.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216665)

I agree with the general sentiment, but there is an important caveat. One single measurement on a reliable apparatus is worth any number of dubious measurements on dodgy equipment. My point (which I didn't make very well) is that the distance to the target is not necessarily a factor in judging the reliability of the results. I am a professional physicist, I trust their result, but I also am pretty sure (I would say 'believe', but I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression that my 'beliefs' are not subject to reversal, as demanded by compelling evidence) that there is an explanation that doesn't require rewriting any of the fundamental laws of physics. It may well require rewriting some of the 'rules of thumb' that astrophysicists use to judge what to expect from their measurements, but if science teaches us anything, it is that 'intuition' and 'rules of thumb' are not a good guide to telling us the secrets of how the world works.

(By the way, if the ultimate explanation does require rewriting some laws of physics, I would be very happy - but it would need very compelling evidence, and in particular, the requirement that any changes to the laws of physics don't affect what we observe every day on the Earth is a very severe constraint on how they could be modified. The current arguments about what new physics look like affect either very tiny length scales [string theory], or very large length scales [modifications to relativity etc], neither of which have any consequence for ordinary life, and are not measurable without equipment at the forefront of technology.)

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (2, Informative)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216165)

I am not sure of the method they used to find this planet. If they are using the transit method, then there isn't a heck of a lot of interpretation to the numbers. You see how often the sun "blinks" because of the planet flashing across it. You get several observations, with a minimum of three (this is a reason why the closer planets get discovered quicker. it takes less time to verify). So, basically I don't think it is presumptuous at all. It is basic physics.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (5, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216271)

How presumptuous is it for these physicists to make claims about exoplanets, when no one has been able to visit them to confirm anything that our measurements are telling us *might* be out there? How confident is astrophysics in what they're seeing and interpreting?

The error bars are published along with the data, you know. There's no presumption here. These astronomers are presenting data and then interpreting the results in order to suggest probably implications.

Why is it that every "scientists find something new and try to understand it" article on Slashdot prompts comments that get modded up (why is the parent +4 insightful?!) for complaining that arrogant scientists are making stuff up and leaping to conclusions?

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (0)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216433)

Why is it that every "scientists find something new and try to understand it" article on Slashdot prompts comments that get modded up (why is the parent +4 insightful?!) for complaining that arrogant scientists are making stuff up and leaping to conclusions?

To be fair, I did not accuse scientists of being presumptuous. Rather, I asked for a quantification of how presumptuous the claims are, based on the data and the methods that we currently have. If anyone's actually being presumptuous, it's more likely either the science journalists or the slasdot editors.

I meant to point out that if you take a moment to think about it, these claims are likely tentative, based on what they currently can tell to the best of their ability; not solid, final and authorative. But it seems that a lot of people who have responded thought I was accusing scientists of jumping to conclusions.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

SoVeryTired (967875) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216765)

Perhaps you picked your words wrong then. "How presumptuous is it..." reads as a rhetorical question, with the implication being "it is presumptuous...".

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (2, Insightful)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216461)

Why is it that every "scientists find something new and try to understand it" article on Slashdot prompts comments that get modded up (why is the parent +4 insightful?!) for complaining that arrogant scientists are making stuff up and leaping to conclusions?

Probably because the average slashdotter doesn't know anything about science. Scientific facts, maybe, but procedure? No. See any global warming thread for further details.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216313)

How presumptuous is it for these physicists to make claims about exoplanets, when no one has been able to visit them to confirm anything that our measurements are telling us *might* be out there? How confident is astrophysics in what they're seeing and interpreting?

Why do we need to go to a planet to take measurements? By your logic, we should not be able to confidently say anything about any of the celestial bodies save the Earth and our moon. All the astronomers (not physicists, mind you) are doing here is determining (not presuming) the orbital period of a planet around a star, which is EXTREMELY straightforward, even for an exoplanet such as this. It is also fairly straightforward to the age of a star. Since all of our current knowledge shows that planets tend to form at the same time as a star, we are taking that as the most likely scenario here. The scientists in question are making it totally clear that there is a disconnect between theory and observation here, and are investigating more deeply to find out how to amend theory and enhance our understanding of the cosmos. I cannot see what is presumptuous here, other than your ignorant blatherings of presumptuousness.

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (3, Insightful)

mike2R (721965) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216341)

Presumptuous?? Isn't that how science is meant to work - collect data, try and find patterns, make presumptions (hypothesises) about the underlying systems, and then collect more data to see if their presumptions are born out.

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but rather, 'hmm... that's funny...'" - Isaac Asimov

Re:Maybe the measurements are wrong or incomplete (2, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216479)

What do you mean "presumptuous"? This is how science works: based on past observations, you construct a theory of how things should work. Then you make new observations that contradict your theory, and you revise it. That's what we're seeing here.

I'm impressed by the speed at which the WASP team makes these "impossible" discoveries, though. A few days ago there was news about WASP-17b that orbited around its sun in the wrong direction, and now WASP-18b orbits too close to its sun. Cool stuff.

That sounds like an interesting place... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29215991)

where is my guide and my towel ?

The Obligatory ... (4, Funny)

Helmholtz (2715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29215995)

...IT'S A TRAP!!!!!

Re:The Obligatory ... (5, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216077)

Are you saying "That's no planet ..."?

According to the IAU...not a planet, right? (2, Funny)

haystor (102186) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216007)

A planet must orbit the Sun.

That is the sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216389)

for that planet.

Re:According to the IAU...not a planet, right? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216615)

Correct, it's an EXOplanet.

Can I get a "woosh"?

Is it re-up time for grants already? (0, Troll)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216041)

Queue the 'Killer meteor will come within 100 miles of earth!' too as the scientists ramp up their efforts to get funding. At least these guys have some facts to back them up.

Wasp 18b? Sinister much? (3, Funny)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216043)

Does anyone else feel that this planet might be able to defy conventional orbital mechanics through the power of Concentrated Evil?

If you think the PLANET is tough (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216051)

You should meet the aliens living on it.

They're tougher than Chuck Norris (and that was supposed to be impossible too).

Re:If you think the PLANET is tough (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216143)

Chuck Norris is a native of the planet, our yellow sun saps his powers.

Re:If you think the PLANET is tough (3, Informative)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216621)

Hah, tougher than Chuck Norris, indeed.

Scientists calculated the weather conditions on a similar "hot Jupiter", HD 189733b, and came up with some pretty amazing results. HD 189733b is locked into synchronous orbit around its parent star in the same manner that the moon orbits the Earth, in that the rotational period directly matches the orbital period (which is fairly common for close orbiting planets, it is very plausible that Wasp 18b could be a similar story), leaving one side of the planet perpetually day, the other perpetually night. As the planet is only 3 million miles from its parent star, it was not overly surprising to find daytime highs of 2,000 - 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. What was surprising, however, was the nighttime temperature of roughly 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit! This indicates that the atmosphere is incredibly efficient at transferring heat, which means a lot of "air" (NOTE: The atmosphere of HD 189733b is NOT air, but a completely alien mixture of gasses.) moving around. When they calculated the winds that would be necessary to sustain such heat transfer, it was determined that HD 189733b would need to sustain windspeeds of approximately 7,000 mph, making Hurricane Katrina look like a nice ocean breeze by comparison. The weather conditions on Wasp 18b are likely similar; any beings that lived there would indeed have to be extremely tough, and Chuck Norris would most likely be checking his closet for them before going to bed.

Disaster Area (4, Funny)

jofny (540291) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216067)

It's Disaster Area's stage in a parking orbit.

If it exists, it isn't impossible (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216075)

Perhaps it was thrown from a different solar system and captured by its star.

or (5, Insightful)

stickrnan (1290752) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216173)

perhaps it's spiraling to its demise after billions of years in a decaying orbit.

I saw this episode of Doctor Who (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216101)

The Beast is imprisoned there!

Re:I saw this episode of Doctor Who (1)

Veretax (872660) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216667)

Or perhaps its heald in place by a gravimetric device, like the one that sort of went, boom when the Doctor and Rose showed up and encountered 'the beast' ;)

Re:I saw this episode of Doctor Who (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216709)

Wait, where's the black hole?

Re:I saw this episode of Doctor Who (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216755)

I am the sin, and the temptation, and the desire. I am the pain and the loss and the death of hope. I have been imprisoned for eternity, but no more. The pit is open. And I am free.

This just in (1, Insightful)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216115)

Science doesn't already know everything, learns something new today it thought was impossible yesterday, news at 11.

Re:This just in (-1, Flamebait)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216275)

Next up, Global Warming, are we really so sure?

Answer: yes we are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216419)

Funny how people will spout out "so we don't really know, do we" and ALSO "huh? why do you have such huge error bars in your working???".

Re:This just in (4, Funny)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216513)

Your news program sucks. 11 is too late. I'm in bed by then.

Re:This just in (2, Funny)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216723)

"Well, science knows it doesn't know everything! Otherwise it would stop."

Re:This just in (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216745)

I like to call this "the evolution of science" - tends to confuse the hell out of creationists.

Maybe it is in a decaying orbit (2, Insightful)

phil-trick (24853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216129)

And it started out a billion years ago much further away...

Re:Maybe it is in a decaying orbit (2, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216391)

And we just happened to look at it during that 0.1% of its lifespan...

Which is possible of course, and more likely than that percentage since our observation methods find close to the star planets more easily selecting for that case.

Maybe... (1)

zulater (635326) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216141)

It's closer to 6600 years? :)

Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216147)

global warming isn't so hurtful after all?

Creationists (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216151)

Just wait until creationists get wind of this.

Oh, this is fascinating! (1)

carluva (963158) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216153)

Perhaps they should reconsider their evaluation of its age...

Quick Call the Doctor (4, Funny)

psychicsword (1036852) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216199)

Its the Impossible Planet [wikipedia.org] tell him to look for The Satan Pit [wikipedia.org]

Re:Quick Call the Doctor (1, Interesting)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216585)

That alleged episode does not exist. For "The Impossible Planet" to exist, The Doctor would have to be such a rube that he doesn't understand that it is entirely possible for a planet to orbit a black hole without needing a "Magic Gravity Cone." I've been rather fond of The Doctor since my childhood, when I used to watch the Tom Baker shows and they'd scare the crap out of me (and I loved it), so I refuse to believe he's such a rube. The only logical explanation is that some David Tennant lookalike hijacked the TARDIS, played with the controls enough to strand himself on a planet orbiting a black hole, and then started spewing some technobabble nonsense to try to impress Rose (because I can easily believe that she's thick enough not to understand that a planet can orbit a black hole). What we didn't see was between episodes, when The Doctor hunted down the imposter, gave him One Warning(tm), offered him a chance to live a peaceful life on Politzan Seven, and when he refused, dumped him into the black hole with a stony, grim expression on his face.

Re:Quick Call the Doctor (1)

Starayo (989319) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216801)

Dare not question the Doctor's pseudoscience, mere human.

Nature paper (5, Interesting)

petaflop (682818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216217)

Nature paper here [nature.com] . Interesting quote:

For comparison, WASP-18b's infall timescale is an order of magnitude shorter than that of the much-discussed OGLE-TR-56b6, 7 (assuming that Q is the same for both), and gives a current rate of period change of â"0.00073 (106/Q) s/yr. For low values of Q this would accumulate to a detectable change in transit epoch in less than a decade (for Q = 106 the transit time shifts by 28 s after 10 yr, which compares with a currently achievable timing accuracy of 5 s). Thus WASP-18b is a diagnostic planet, either (for a low Q) being an exceptionally rare object in which the tidal decay is directly measurable, or forcing a reappraisal to much higher Q values; either way it will help establish the dynamical ages of the class of hot-Jupiter planets. WASP-18 will also help constrain our understanding of stellar interiors, given that the Q value depends on the dissipation of interior waves excited by the tidal forcing.

So if the orbit is decaying, we'll be able to measure it in 10 years, otherwise there will be useful data to refine theories about tidal forces in the surfaces of stars.

Wow, a crappy slashdot title (4, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216241)

Interesting how in the article, they never use the word "impossible". Infact, they actually put forward a handful of possible (although unlikely)ways that this may have occurred.

There's bazillions of things that are unlikely to happen, but the universe is a big place. While we can't predict which particular weird thing we might observe next time, we shouldn't be all that surprised that weirdness is out there.

Re:Wow, a crappy slashdot title (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216617)

It's a Doctor Who reference. Read a few more comments.

And, it's sort of a common Sci-Fi conceit (which we see mirroring science fact.) The impossible is usually possible.

Maybe it was a "normal" planet... (5, Interesting)

Osvaldo Doederlein (34220) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216265)

...formed one billion years ago, but originally much more distant from the star. But its orbit was not stable, approaching quickly (in astronomical time) to the star; and we're just lucky to have found it in the final stage of the death spiral. If this is the case, it may even be possible to watch the final spectacle in a timeframe reasonable for human scale (a few thousand years, perhaps centuries, or even less).

Wild speculation of course... but just to be safe, I'm immediately canceling all my plans of space vacations near the Wasp18 system. I never liked wasps anyway.

I'd agree (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216327)

There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy. If we look at enough of them then at some point by the laws of probability we're going to find a planet on its final death spiral into the star. I don't see what the issue is. Ok , if in 50 years time the planets orbit hasn't changed *then* we start to worry and revisit our theories.

Re:Maybe it was a "normal" planet... (0, Offtopic)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216837)

I never liked wasps anyway.

Racist! [wikipedia.org]

Hot Jupiter (5, Insightful)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216303)

Perhaps instead of a hot Jupiter what they have found is a cold sun?

Re:Hot Jupiter (4, Funny)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216637)

I propose the term "ugly jupiter" in conjuction with "fridgid star". We shall call the orbit "the chastity belt".

Re:Hot Jupiter (2, Informative)

codewarren (927270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216691)

This is modded funny, but this was exactly my thought. I presume this was considered, and that there is a reason to have ruled it out, but there are already binary stars which sound like two identically sized stars orbiting each other, but are not always identically sized. Since scientists think that really large gas giants are just stars that weren't big enough to initiate fusion, it doesn't seem to much of a stretch to think that the "hot jupiter" is just a case of a binary star where one never made it to fusion.

Re:Hot Jupiter (1)

farooge (25395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216793)

same thing

I Broke The Laws of Physics!!!! (3, Insightful)

quatin (1589389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216331)

"Oh wait, I just forgot to add resistance." - Quoted by my high school physics teacher. There are plenty of human error involved with not applying the laws of physics correctly. Let's not all get on the bandwagon just yet that we have broken the laws of physics. I doubt even the scientists involved believe this, it's just another slow news day at the LA times and they're trying to make something big out of something little.

alternatively (4, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216393)

we're actually watching the planet in the process of being consumed

which would be highly unlikely, to get that timing right, as there's a window of only a couple thousand years in which we could see that happen, but maybe that's what we're really seeing

in which case, rather than revise orbital dynamics, this planet could contribute to our understanding of astrophysics/ michael bay style thermodynamics by allowing us to watch a jupiter sized planet ripped to smithereens in real time

Kiri-kin-tha's First Law of Metaphysics: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216405)

"Nothing unreal exists." [memory-alpha.org]

It may be a teaching from a fictional teacher...but it's a good one.

Oblig: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216423)

I, for one, welcome our new Flame Resistant Planetary Overlords!

We have filed the plans (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216443)

We have filed notices to build an intergalactic highway through that planet. Notice can be perused in a nearby star, hardly 4.5 light years away in a dark unlit basement without stairs in a filing cabinet in a disused toilet, with a "Beware of the Cheetah" sign on the door.

Aliens (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216481)

I'm going with the "a bunch of fraternity aliens pulling a practical joke" theory.

To be serious, hasn't science had a history of finding "impossible" things, then turned out to be 1) a mistake 2) something new that changed some thinking 3) a weird-ass anomaly 4) the platypus? Let's all just calm down until we find the platypus alien pranksters!

Re:Aliens (2, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216663)

Yes, except we use slightly different terms. Only the non-scientists need to calm down, though. Finding things you didn't expect is par for the course.

Re:Aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216779)

Saving your home planet from spiraling into the sun is hardly a practical joke.

Congratulations Wasp-18! (1)

farooge (25395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216485)

It's a baby!

I wonder if [big round celestial bodies] have a 'sex'? Probably, though I have no idea how to tell. .. I'm not being sarcastic folks, it's new, really.

I got your orbital physics right here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216515)

I got your orbital physics right here! Badabing!

-Hot Jupiter's Lover

I thought this was settled science! (0, Troll)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216523)

Just like man-made global warming is settled, I thought orbital dynamics is settled! I mean... 400 years, c'mon.. of course it's settled! Obviously these findings go against the overwhelming consensus among astrophysicists and is therefore wrong!

Re:I thought this was settled science! (1)

farooge (25395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216613)

:-)

That was my first thought too

Re:I thought this was settled science! (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216705)

Yeah. I don't agree with this 'gravity' consensus either. These so-called 'scientists' think they know everything.

Easy answer. (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216561)

Clearly the orbit is artificial, the planet has been moved by an Alien race hiding under the thick atmosphere.

short winters (1)

z_gringo (452163) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216587)

So every day(year) after lunch, those guys are talking about how this is a HOT summer this day. The idle banter about the weather must get really repetitive there.

mod doUwn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216625)

VitalIty. I7s and easy - only

There is only one way (1)

huxrules (649822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216653)

Quick! To the Space Shuttle!!!

"Impossible" ? (1)

Whatshisface (1203604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216673)

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Did anybody tell ya... (1)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216695)

WASPs always look old for their age!


BADA BOOM!

I'll be here all week. Please tip your waiters...

oblig (1)

muckracer (1204794) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216737)

In Soviet Russia the red star orbits You!

second impossible planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216751)

Cowboy Neil's mom should have created a black hole and pulled in the earth years ago.

Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29216819)

It's amazing that we can barely find planets 300 light years from here, and scientists have already drawn conclusions about how the universe works - so much so that an "impossible" planet is found. Who's to say that this is not a normal happening around the other 99.999% of the universe that we cannot see?

hope for geeks (1)

Atreide (16473) | more than 4 years ago | (#29216859)

Since universe is full of such marvels.

I may get lucky and find the impossible woman ?

One that is not supposed to exist but suits me.

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