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Beyond Earthly Skies

Swinging on Highly Eccentric Orbits

15 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
Swinging on Highly Eccentric Orbits NASA/JPL-Caltech/G. Laughlin et al.
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A number of exoplanets are known to orbit their host stars in wildly eccentric orbits. These exoplanets have “comet-like” orbits where they come close to their host stars and then recede far out. One example is HD 80606 b - a Jupiter-like planet which orbits its host star in a highly elongated orbit with eccentricity 0.9336. The planet’s distance from its host star varies from 0.03 to 0.88 AU, where 1 AU is the average Earth-Sun distance. At closest approach, HD 80606 b receives over 800 times more insolation than when it is farthest from its host star. Near closest approach, temperatures on HD 80606 b can rise from 800 K to 1500 K in a mere 6 hours. HD 80606 b attains a maximum orbital velocity of 227 km/s when it is closest to its host star. At that speed, a sufficiently large meteoroid barrelling into HD 80606 b could produce a truly spectacular meteor on the planet’s nightside.Figure 1: A model of HD 80606 b showing the stormy response of the planet’s atmosphere right after closest approach to its host star. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/G. Laughlin et al.In the Solar System, all known planets go around the Sun in relatively ...

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