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Comet-like exoplanet found to orbit its star’s poles

18 Dec 2017, 17:26 UTC
Comet-like exoplanet found to orbit its star’s poles
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The orbit of the exoplanet can tell us about its formation and evolution. Image credit: NASA
An international team of astronomers led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland have discovered that the Neptune-sized exoplanet – a planet beyond our Solar System – GJ 436b has a highly irregular elliptical orbit around its host red dwarf star. GJ 436b, also known as the ‘the comet-like exoplanet’ due to it casting a tail of hydrogen, appears to have an elliptical orbit around the star’s poles.
The commonly accepted ‘regular’ appearance of a solar system is all the planets orbiting the host star on the same plane, which is also the equatorial plane of the star. The spin of the star also aligns with the spin axes of the planetary orbits, giving the impression of a well-ordered system. However, the universe is extremely fickle, and ever changing. The team of researchers discovered that this particular planetary system is instead turned upside down.
GJ 436 is a system that has been the subject to many studies, one of which led to the discovery of GJ 436b, the exoplanet that evaporates like a comet. Now, researchers have shown that the exoplanet also has a ...

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