Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Weird Exoplanet Might Kill Planet Formation Theory

HATS-14b Image courtesy of NASA, ESA and A. Schaller.

Joel Kontinen

An exoplanet known as HATS-14b is causing astronomers to discard their theories on how planets form.

An article in New Scientist gives some background facts for the dilemma:

In our solar system, the planets all orbit the sun in the same plane, perpendicular to the axis around which the sun spins. But for half a decade, we’ve known that big planets close to other stars can have orbits that are tilted at all sorts of weird angles.”

Astronomers thought they knew a few plausible reasons for this.

But then came HATS-14b with its orbit “tilted a whopping 76 degrees from the plane in which its star spins.”

The planet is a hot Jupiter that circles a rather small star, so it “should have aligned with the spin of the host star,” as George Zhou at the Australian National University in Canberra and the lead author of a new paper puts it.

It seems that HATS-14b doesn’t have much respect for planet-formation theories.

It’s not the only one, as exoplanets tend to be weird, defying naturalistic views.

But there’s one planet that’s just right for life, the one we call home.


Sokol, Joshua. 2015. Weirdly tilted planet knocks formation theory out of line. New Scientist (24 November).