Friday, April 8, 2011

Alien planet provides clues to Earth's future? 11.26.10

Astronomers have recently discovered a planet that they strongly feel is from a galaxy not our own. Orbiting the star HIP 13044, the planet may provide clues as to what our own sun may have in store for Earth, 5 billion years from now, that is.

An artist's impression of HIP 13044. Image credit:
This situation is unique because the planet is orbiting around a star that has an unexpected chemistry. This, along with the star’s proximity to other similar objects has led astronomers to believe that it is from the Helmi Stream, a nearby dwarf galaxy that our own Milky Way supposedly attracted and swallowed up. The planet is about “25 percent more massive than Jupiter” and is located approximately 2,000 light years away in the constellation Fornax.

Using a European Southern Observatory in Chile, the astronomers have determined that the 
chemistry of the star and its alien planet is drastically different from the normal patterns of solar system development. Simply put, because so large of a planet is orbiting around such a chemically different star, astronomers are having to rethink their theories regarding planetary formation around stars. Because the star is at such an advanced age and astronomers can track its changes, they are also hoping to glean data that may provide insight into the relationship between stars and their orbiting planets, which may in turn reveal what our sun has in store for our solar system as it (the sun) grows with age.

“This is very exciting,” said study co-author Rainer Klement of the Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany. For the first time, astronomers can finally study stars and planets from another galaxy because of the absorption of the Helmi Stream.


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