Menu
News

USQ astrophysicists make surprising, ancient find

Superimposing HD76920b's orbit on the solar system shows how peculiar it is. Its orbit is more like that of the asteroid Phaethon than any of the solar system's planets.
Superimposing HD76920b's orbit on the solar system shows how peculiar it is. Its orbit is more like that of the asteroid Phaethon than any of the solar system's planets. Jake Clark

THE discovery of a planet by University of Southern Queensland researchers with a highly eccentric orbit around an ancient star could help us understand more about how planetary systems form and evolve over time.

The newly discovered world, named HD76920b, is unique as it orbits an ancient star more than two billion years older than the Sun.

At its furthest, it orbits almost twice as far from its star as Earth does from the Sun.

These findings will be published in the Astronomical Journal and is a culmination of seven years of work by research lead Associate Professor Rob Wittenmyer and co-authors USQ Associate Professor Jonti Horner, PhD student Jake Clark and Associate Professor Stephen Kane from the University of California.

"We don't know why the orbit is so eccentric but we have a few ideas," Ass Prof Horner said.

The digital and print deal.
The digital and print deal.

"Maybe the system had a few planets on circular orbits, and then became unstable. This planet flung the others out to the depths of space, leaving it alone, on a new, eccentric orbit.

"Alternatively, maybe the star has an unseen companion - perhaps it is a binary. Then the distant companion could have stirred up the orbit of the planet, leaving it where we see it today.

"Questions like these are part of the joy of science. It's amazing to find something we don't yet understand, as it shows there's still so much to learn."

A gaseous planet, HD76920b will change shape as it swings past its star, stretched by its enormous gravity.

These tides would be far greater than any experienced on Earth.

Ass Prof Wittenmyer said as was always the case in astronomy, more observations were needed to truly understand the life story of this peculiar planet.

"Even now, 20 years into the "exoplanet era" and with more than 3000 planets known, this discovery shows that the universe can still surprise us," he said.

These findings are explained in further detail on The Conversation - https://theconversation.com/weve-found-an-exo-planet-with-an-extraordinarily-eccentric-orbit-87011

Topics:  planet toowoomba university of southern queensland


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

'Not appreciated': Police hit back after gridlock complaints

GRIDLOCK: Motorists found themselves stranded near the scene of a fatal crash on Saturday.

Some drivers stuck in traffic called Triple-0 to ask for water

Why energy discounts could be misleading

Energy bill discounts are not always as cheap as they appear.

Customers need to dig deeper to find real savings

Craft group raises significant funds for hospice

GOOD JOB: Ladies from the Ipswich Hospice craft group have helped the organisation raise much needed funds.

Craft group helps to raise funds for Ipswich Hospice.

Local Partners