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Fomalhaut's Exoplanets Have Orbits That Defy Theory

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the home-of-the-utwig dept.

Space 43

astroengine writes "Astronomers believe they have found a second distant planet around Fomalhaut, a bright young neighbor star, and that the far-out world — like its sister planet — is shepherding and shaping the star's ring of dust. If confirmed, theorists have some work to do explaining how the planet, believed to be a few times bigger than Mars, ended up 155 times as far away from its parent star as Earth is to the sun. 'We're learning a lot about planets that are close to their stars, but that is not the full picture. We also want to know about systems where planets are very far out. By considering near-, far- and mid-range, we can get a complete picture of planet formation,' University of Florida astronomer Aaron Boley said." There was another fascinating bit of news about Fomalhaut a few days ago: "ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory has studied the dusty belt around the nearby star Fomalhaut. The dust appears to be coming from collisions that destroy up to thousands of icy comets every day."

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Theory (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680187)

So... what is the theory that its defying? Don't see that part in the summary or in a skimming of the article. All I see is them saying we don't know enough about this yet to even have a theory.

Re:Theory (3, Funny)

dunng808 (448849) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680211)

Perhaps the Empire has been testing its fully operational Death Star. Just a theory.

Re:Theory (4, Interesting)

sysrammer (446839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680229)

No, that's a hypothesis.

Re:Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680487)

Your face is a hypothesis.

Re:Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39684131)

Thas is what she said!

Re:Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680691)

Don't be silly, this is a clear example of magic in the super-natural world.

Re:Theory (2)

Higgins_Boson (2569429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680759)

No, that's a hypothesis.

Of course it's a hypothesis! I mean, there's NO WAY the Death Star is fully operational yet.

Re:Theory (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681893)

It is a government project therefore it will never be fully operational so long as the government has money to spend.

Re:Theory (3, Funny)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39682301)

It is a government project therefore it will never be fully operational so long as the government has money to spend.

Maybe this will help.
An elephant is a mouse built to government specs.

Re:Theory (1)

Higgins_Boson (2569429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39682777)

Maybe this will help. An elephant is a mouse built to government specs.

What an amazingly terrifying thought...

Re:Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39683075)

There was an incident where a police had shot a black man in the back, and then went and plant a gun next to him and said the guy had drawed on a gun on him. What we found out after the investigation is: guy didn't have no gun. Police just shot a man, cold blood.

Re:Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686859)

There were many such incidents, with victims of many colors. Power-tripping, government-authorized thugs do thuggish things, film at 11.

Which has what the fuck to do with exoplanet orbits, fully-operational battle stations, and such?

Re:Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39683355)

Yeah, I'm a bit disappointed that this story wasn't from the 'That's no moon' department.

Re:Theory (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680287)

Planetary formation.

Re:Theory (3, Informative)

FunkDup (995643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680297)

So... what is the theory that its defying?

I think the theory is that rocky planets and dusty rings should be orbiting much closer to a star that's only twice as big as ours.

The suspected planet would be the second planet found orbiting Fomalhaut, a very bright star located about 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. Fomalhaut is twice as big as our sun and encircled by a disk of dust 16 times wider than the span between the sun and Earth.
The inner edge of the ring is about 135 times as far as away from the star as Earth is to the sun.

Re:Theory (0)

sk999 (846068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681645)

It is the same theory that says that all those Jupiter-sized planets that we are finding closer to their parent stars than is Mercury couldn't possible exist.

It is also the same theory that says that Pluto is not a planet.

Re:Theory (0)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39682289)

So... what is the theory that its defying? Don't see that part in the summary or in a skimming of the article. All I see is them saying we don't know enough about this yet to even have a theory.

The real theory, and it is a thin one, is that "WE" understand our own planetary system.
The Sumerians knew more about the outer planets than we do, six, ten, you pick a number, thousands of years ago. The arrogance of religion and its just as arrogant counterpart, science; knows even less.
Sure, sure, we're gaining by leaps and bounds at the LHC says the child playing with matches.

Re:Theory (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39685519)

The Sumerians knew more about the outer planets than we do, six, ten, you pick a number, thousands of years ago. The arrogance of religion and its just as arrogant counterpart, science; knows even less.

They weren't even aware half of the outer planets existed, so your claim is very unlikely to be true.

Science! (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680273)

More facts, theories expand.

Love it.

Advanced civilizations (4, Interesting)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680279)

They're just a little higher on the Kardashev scale [wikipedia.org] than astronomers can imagine.
Meh, I've read about stuff like this since I was a kid.

Astrophysics for fun (4, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680349)

Astrophysics seems to be an entertaining field - a surprise every other week. Sure beats particle physics.

Re:Astrophysics for fun (1)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680429)

Physics in general would be interesting to work in. Unless it's classical mechanics. Then I'd probably get bored :/

Re:Astrophysics for fun (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681349)

You can generally get beer at classical mechanics (pool) halls.

Re:Astrophysics for fun (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686721)

Physics in general would be interesting to work in. Unless it's classical mechanics. Then I'd probably get bored :/

Huh, classical mechanics and boring? Ever since we got computers, I'd say that classical mechanics got much more intriguing than it has ever been. Just think of space probe navigation between the Solar system bodies and the Interplanetary Transport Network, for example.

I don't see the problem. (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680477)

Since it formed very early on, it's most likely a proto-planet rather than a mature planet. Planetary theory is only designed for mature planets, because statistics doesn't apply to extremely small numbers and extremely small numbers is exactly what you have when dealing with proto-planets. Ergo, the theory cannot be applied sensibly, ergo there is no theory that can be described as being defied.

Re:I don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680791)

Please inform Pluto that another proto-planet has been found, thus making Pluto no longer a lone bastard of the Cosmos.

Sincerely,

Proto-planet Support Guild

Re:I don't see the problem. (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681287)

Ceres is a proto-Planet and recent evidence suggests Vesta is also. My guess is that the KBOs that are larger than Pluto are also proto-Planets, although ones larger than Vesta and smaller than Pluto may or may not be depending on mass and structure.

Re:I don't see the problem. (3, Interesting)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680857)

Since it formed very early on, it's most likely a proto-planet rather than a mature planet. Planetary theory is only designed for mature planets, because statistics doesn't apply to extremely small numbers and extremely small numbers is exactly what you have when dealing with proto-planets. Ergo, the theory cannot be applied sensibly, ergo there is no theory that can be described as being defied.

There's also the possibility of captured planets since there are believed to be a large number that form in the outer fringes of systems and in interstellar space. They are believed to be a large part of the missing matter. It's a tricky balance capturing a planet that far out due to the extremely low gravity. Odds are they'd have a very elliptical orbit much like Pluto.

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#39683151)

Since it formed very early on

There's also lots of chaos in early solar systems. Something knocked Uranus on its side and some models show it and Neptune originally orbiting inside of Jupiter's orbit.

As you say, the models of the mature stable solar system don't apply.

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39685587)

There's also lots of chaos in early solar systems. Something knocked Uranus on its side and some models show it and Neptune originally orbiting inside of Jupiter's orbit.

The model I'm familiar with suggests Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all formed closer to the Sun then they are currently, with Neptune's and Uranus's relative positions reversed.

At some point Jupiter and Saturn formed a 2:1 orbital resonance and this caused the entire Solar System to be disrupted... Jupiter moved inward, the other large planets moved outwards (with Neptune being pushed past Uranus), and lots of junk started falling into the inner Solar System (the "Early Heavy Bombardment")

A basic observation in favor of Neptune forming closer than Uranus is the fact that Neptune is more massive.

Re:I don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686943)

(with Neptune being pushed past Uranus)

Neptune is a buttplug.

(Sorry, someone had to say it, and I'm ACing due to modding anyway, so why not me!)

How much sleep ya need, Kelvin? (2)

vaene (1981644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680685)

The only solution is to send researchers there and see if their dead girlfriends start showing up.

Re:How much sleep ya need, Kelvin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688277)

Mod parent up! :)))

Ringworld, srsly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680835)

It's that small because it used to be big. The Ringworld Engineers had to strip it for mass. All that scrith didn't just come from nowhere, you know.

Re:Ringworld, srsly (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686951)

But it's not small:

the planet, believed to be a few times bigger than Mars

Whatever that may mean; Earth and Venus are a few times, say 2, bigger than Mars.

Cthugha, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680849)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthugha

Clearly, this is the explanation. ;)

An Interesting Thought (3, Interesting)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681489)

When I first read the bit about what the planets are doing, my immediate thought was "mining." That's not the interesting part, just a thought I had.

The interesting part: what if I was right, and we carried right on with attempting to jam this observation into our understanding of the universe? What if we saw lots of mining ops, or beacons? (Seems to me they'd be indistinguishable from wacky pulsars unless they were doing some silly "trying to make first contact" trick.) What if we wound up with all manner of complex theories about how things behave in deep space that seem to have nothing to do with the real world? What if we got stuck here because of it?

It feels like something one of the old-school hard-SF authors would've done a short story about at some point. Any recommendations?

An infinite universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39682107)

Given an infinite universe, should we not expect to see/find just about anything and everything? If it is even remotely possible, then it will be there... somewhere. :-)

"up to thousands"? (1)

Kahlandad (1999936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39683137)

So, they are estimating that the number of comets destroyed daily by collisions is somewhere between 0 and 999,999. A little vague, don't you think?

They never learn (0)

AssholeMcGee (2521806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39683749)

Would this mean that Einstein theories are also wrong? They have challenged his theories for years after taking them to heart!! Off topic something that always bothered me.. If You were to travel back in time, would you actually make it or die off trying? Since you are going back in time would you experience teenage, childhood life then turn into a stem cell and disappear, remembering that the time you are trying to reach maybe a time in which you were never born? Or would you some how defy this and make it safely? I hope they are able to find this out (i will be dead by then) but if I was to be alive I would wonder what the outcome would be. Would time travel be possible? Or are there several earths (or earth like planets) out there that are all experiencing the different phases we have seen, or things that happened to this planet that may have happen to other earth like planets, scientists have guessed over?

Physicists - Think Conservation of Momentum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39684251)

Maybe when the Earth was sucking up debris early on it had an orbit much further from the Sun. It seems logical that hitting dust would slow the planet down, and thru the conservation of angular momentum cause it to move further inward toward the Sun. This could be happening around Fomalhaut as well.

It's Solyaris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39684991)

Send Kelvin, Snaut, and Sartorius over there on the double.

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