Just a short time after a tiny telescope got professional-quality data on two transiting planets, the heavy weight champion among transit detectors landed with its own new edition of the on going, space freak show of exoworlds. Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Ctr for Astrophysics, Univ. of Washington, and scads of other places report in Science this week discovery with the Kepler space telescope of two planets in orbit so close they're almost in each others britches. They are so close to their parent star they're both roasting hot. The strange part, to astronomers, is that while the planets are now in almost the same exact hellish neighborhood they must have formed under very different, more distant conditions. Their densities are different by a factor of eight. One is a gassy giant roughly half the mass of Neptune (or about eight times Earth), the other a rocky planet with around 4.5 times the mass of Earth. Yet somehow, they found one another.
No two planets in our own solar system come anywhere near to having such different properties while in such similar orbits.
A fanciful painting, reproduced here, helped get the news attention. That, and a mess of press releases. You gotta check the weird illus that the Univ. of Washington included (in Grist below).
- LATimes - Thomas H. Maugh II: Astronomers fine unlikely pair of planets orbiting star; Maugh 'retired' last September from LA Times. That's clearly (as with several NYTimes retirees) not the same as not working.
- Christian Science Monitor - Pete Spotts: Astronomers discover an 'odd couple' of planets ; Oscar and Felix, he calls them. The story vividly paints how precarious these planets' environment is - their aging star has run through its core hydrogen fuel and is starting to bloat and heat up. Pretty good job, too, describing the fancy math needed to extract conclusions from Kepler's data on these fast-skimming worlds.
- Space.com - Mike Wall: Odd Alien Planets So Close Together They See 'Planetrise' ;
- Universe Today - Nancy Atkinson: What a View! Exoplanet Odd Couple Orbit in Close Proximity ;
- Register (UK) Brid-Aine Parnell: Kepler space telescope peers at hot alien couple ; Yes and not mere boffins but astro-boffin did the work.
- Wired - Tanya Lewis: Rocky Super-Earth and Gas Giant Are Latest Superstar Couple ;
- Discovery News - Irene Klotz: Exoplanet 'Odd Couple' Defy Formation Theories;
Grist for the Mill:
- Charlie Petit