Saturday, 5 December 2015

Every Other Super-Jupiter Might Not Exist

Many alien worlds might not be planets. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Joel Kontinen

Almost 55 per cent of hot Jupiters might not exist, researchers reported in the Extreme Solar Systems III conference in Hawaii earlier this week.

The announcement is not guesswork, but is based on a 5-year study of alien worlds discovered by The Kepler mission. A brief article in Science says:

Kepler identifies exoplanets by staring at a large number of stars for extended periods and waiting for their brightness to dip periodically when a planet passes in front of them. But these dips can be caused by a number of effects so need to be confirmed by other methods.”

The article goes on to explain the method used in the current study:

A team using the SOPHIE spectrograph on a 1.93-meter telescope at the Haute-Provence Observatory in France spent 5 years studying 129 of Kepler’s bigger candidates using a different method: looking for the slight movement of a star as a planet’s gravity tugs it around.”

While exoplanets do not respect planet-formation theories, the result was probably at least somewhat unexpected: 55 per cent of the “planets” might actually be stars orbiting another star.

In any case, this discovery shows that our solar system seems to be very special, fine-tuned for life. In contrast, exoplanets tend to be weird.


Clery, Daniel. 2015. More than half of purported giant alien worlds may not exist. ScienceShot (2 December).