A Very Interesting — And Massively Off-Kilter Exo-Planet Find — 336 Million Light-Years Out, Into the Inky Northern Night Skies (Around A Binary Star System)…

Hubble’s soft light-curves, and mirror bright smiles, have yet again served her efforts to be of unwasted grace — by endowing NASA | Goddard astronomers with a new finding — an oddly inclined, very massive likely gas giant, looping well above the orbital plane of its host binary system. . . one that may offer a model for our long posited “Planet X”.

Do read the full NASA release of this morning, but this is the part that I found most intriguing:

. . .A Planet Nine Proxy?

This scenario for HD 106906 b’s bizarre orbit is similar in some ways to what may have caused the hypothetical Planet Nine to end up in the outer reaches of our own solar system, well beyond the orbit of the other planets and beyond the Kuiper Belt. Planet Nine could have formed in the inner solar system and been kicked out by interactions with Jupiter. However, Jupiter — the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in our solar system — would very likely have flung Planet Nine far beyond Pluto. Passing stars may have stabilized the orbit of the kicked-out planet by pushing the orbit path away from Jupiter and the other planets in the inner solar system.

It’s as if we have a time machine for our own planetary system going back 4.6 billion years to see what may have happened when our young solar system was dynamically active and everything was being jostled around and rearranged,” said Kalas.

To date, astronomers only have circumstantial evidence for Planet Nine. They’ve found a cluster of small celestial bodies beyond Neptune that move in unusual orbits compared with the rest of the solar system. This configuration, some astronomers say, suggests these objects were shepherded together by the gravitational pull of a huge, unseen planet. An alternative theory is that there is not one giant perturbing planet, but instead the imbalance is due to the combined gravitational influence of multiple, much smaller objects. Another theory is that Planet Nine does not exist at all and the clustering of smaller bodies may be just a statistical anomaly.

A Target for the Webb Telescope

Scientists using NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope plan to get data on HD 106906 b to understand the planet in detail. “One question you could ask is: Does the planet have its own debris system around it? Does it capture material every time it goes close to the host stars? And you’d be able to measure that with the thermal infrared data from Webb,” said De Rosa. “Also, in terms of helping to understand the orbit, I think Webb would be useful for helping to confirm our result. . . .”

We are smiling widely here, with near 50 degree temps and bright December sunshine on our shoulders. . . bike time! Indeed — does she sweep up ever more of you, each passing time, as she leans in close, and shares. . . all those molecules — only to then again. . . vanish into the night, for another thousand years? We may soon see. . . .


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