University of California, Riverside | 2019 Nov 05
Views of giant planet in wild orbit would be unparalleled
Contrary to previous thought, a gigantic planet in wild orbit does not preclude the presence of an Earth-like planet in the same solar system – or life on that planet.
What’s more, the view from that Earth-like planet as its giant neighbor moves past would be unlike anything it is possible to view in our own night skies on Earth, according to new research led by Stephen Kane, associate professor of planetary astrophysics at UC Riverside.
The research was carried out in the backdrop of a planetary system called HR 5183, which is about 103 light years away in the constellation of Virgo. It was there that an eccentric giant planet was discovered earlier this year.
Normally, planets orbit their stars on a trajectory that is more or less circular. Astronomers believe large planets in stable, circular orbits around our sun, like Jupiter, shield us from space objects that would otherwise slam into Earth.
Sometimes, planets pass too close to each other and knock one another off course. This can result in a planet with an elliptical or “eccentric” orbit. Conventional wisdom says that a giant planet in eccentric orbit is like a wrecking ball for its planetary neighbors, making them unstable, upsetting weather systems, and reducing or eliminating the likelihood of life existing on them.
Questioning this assumption, Kane and Caltech astronomer Sarah Blunt tested the stability of an Earth-like planet in the HR 5183 solar system. ...
In the Presence of a Wrecking Ball: Orbital Stability in the HR 5183 System ~ Stephen R. Kane, Sarah Blunt
- Astronomical Journal 158(5):209 (2019 Nov) DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/ab4c3e
- arXiv.org > astro-ph > arXiv:1910.03626 > 08 Oct 2019 (v1), 25 Oct 2019 (v2)