Sunday, August 11, 2013

Planet Gaydar

Via Weather Underground:

Pink Planet 08-11-13

At first glance, NASA’s latest find might resemble a classic piece of bubble gum, but the recently discovered planet, GJ 504b, is much too large to roll out of a machine after a quarter and a twist.

How large is it? NASA scientists say it’s four times the mass of Jupiter. The glimmering pink sphere is so massive that it’s the lowest-mass planet orbiting a star like the sun ever detected using direct imaging technology.

But mass is just one component of GJ 504b’s existence that has NASA scientists in awe; GJ 504b also shatters current conceptions of how large planets form.

The prevailing theory, known as the core-accretion model, states that Jupiter-like planets form after a series of collisions between debris create a mass with a gravitational pull strong enough to rapidly attract surrounding gas-rich debris, molding the accumulation of debris into a crude planetary form. But one stipulation of the theory is that it only applies to planets orbiting up to 30 astronomical units (AU) from their sun — 1 AU is equivalent to Earth’s distance from the sun. GJ 504b orbits its star at a distance of 43.5 AU, nearly nine times the distance Jupiter orbits our sun. That discovery has sent scientists scrambling for answers on how GJ 504b could take form.

Isn’t it obvious?  It was born that way, and nothing you can do or say can change it.

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