The First of Its Kind
About 100 light-years from Earth is a star named HR 5183. Around this star is HR 5183 b – an exoplanet whose strange orbit makes it unique.
"This planet is different than the planets in our solar system," said Caltech researcher Sarah Blunt, who recently co-authored a study on HR 5183b, in a press release, "but beyond that, it's unlike any other exoplanet that we have discovered so far.
According to the team's study, which was accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal HR 5183 b spends most of the year somewhere between 45 and 80 100 Earth years – on the edge of his solar system.
But then it accelerates inward and flings around its star.
In our own solar system, this would be the equivalent of a planet that swings into space from beyond Neptune, asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Typically, exoplanets far from their stars have circular orbits, Blunt said in the press release. This means that something about the development or formation of HR 5183b must have been untypical in order to elicit its strange ellipse orbit.
The researchers speculate that the exoplanet may have formed with a similarly sized neighbor and HR 5183 b received a gravitational shock that forced him into the strange orbit from which he now sets himself apart from all other exoplanets in the known universe.
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