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Astronomers find a planet denser than lead
Bad Astronomy ^ | 10/6/08 | Phil Plait

Posted on 10/06/2008 4:12:13 PM PDT by LibWhacker

Planets circle the stars that dot the heavens.

Before 1995, we couldn’t have said that with any certainty. Now we know of more than 300 planets orbiting distant stars, and we have a fleet of telescopes looking for them. The ultimate goal is to find another Earth orbiting a star like the Sun, but the quest on the way to that Holy Grail has yielded some strange benchmarks. CoRoT-exo3b, a dense planet orbiting another star COROT-exo-3b compared to Jupiter

Meet the planet COROT-exo-3b. It orbits a star slightly larger, hotter, and brighter than the Sun. The star is not an unusual one in any way, but the planet is definitely weird: it orbits the star in just over 4 days, which is pretty close in, though not a record breaker in and of itself. What’s bizarre is that it has about the same diameter of Jupiter, but has 21.6 times Jupiter’s mass. That makes it denser than lead.

If I could stand on the surface of this planet, I’d weigh 4200 kilograms*. That’s over 9000 pounds!

Oof.

This is by far the most massive planet found so close to its parent star. There is another extrasolar planet found with about that mass, but it orbits its star much farther out. The ones we’ve found that orbit their stars so close tend to have masses much smaller than this. For comparison, Jupiter takes 12 years to circle the Sun once. Mercury takes 88 days. So we’re talking big planets, really close to their stars.

This planet is challenging to models. How did it form? It most likely formed farther out from the star — gravitational influences make it hard for a large planet to form close to a star — and then gradually moved in. This can happen due to friction, of all things: when the star and planet are young, there is a disk of material leftover from the planetary formation. As the planet sweeps through this material it slows its orbit. It spirals in due to drag gravitational interaction with the disk, and eventually settles down when the disk material thins out a few million kilometers from the surface of the star itself.

The mass of this newly discovered planet is pretty freaky. Normally, anything with a mass more than about 15 or so times the mass of Jupiter would be considered a brown dwarf, a "failed star", as some people call them (I don’t). But at the lower end of the brown dwarf mass range, it gets a bit hard to tell the difference between a planet and a BD. Some people say planets and BDs form in different way (planets grow in size from smaller bodies building up over time through collisions, while BDs and stars form from the collapse of material in a nebula); but I don’t like this definition. You could have two objects that look precisely the same, yet one could be a planet and the other a BD, just because they formed in different ways. That strikes me as silly.

Either way, COROT-exo-3b is weird.

It was discovered by COROT, an orbiting European Space Agency mission designed to look for stars that dip in brightness as an orbiting planet passes in front of them. That gives the size of the planet (the amount the light dims is proportional to the size of the planet). The mass was found using ground-based telescopes, by measuring the amount the planet tugs on the star as it orbits. That’s how the incredible density of this object was found.

As we search the sky for Earth analogue planets, we’re bound to find things at the limits of our understanding. This ultra-dense ball of compressed matter certainly falls into that category. And we’re still new at this! What else lies out there at the fringe of our knowledge?

*For those of you who want to complain about my use of mass as a weight, read this, and acknowledge my superior logical skills.


TOPICS: Astronomy; Science
KEYWORDS: astronomers; denser; lead; planet; xplanets

1 posted on 10/06/2008 4:12:13 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

It is rumored that this ‘denser than lead’ planet has been nicknamed: Obama.


2 posted on 10/06/2008 4:13:48 PM PDT by Leo Farnsworth (I'm not really Leo Farnsworth...)
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To: LibWhacker
And here it is....


3 posted on 10/06/2008 4:14:00 PM PDT by dr_who
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To: LibWhacker

That planet is even denser than the Obamabots.


4 posted on 10/06/2008 4:14:05 PM PDT by reg45
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To: LibWhacker

Maybe we can send Obama to one of those planets.


5 posted on 10/06/2008 4:14:16 PM PDT by chippewaman
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To: LibWhacker

Planet denser than lead? I guess they will propose the name “Bidensbrain”


6 posted on 10/06/2008 4:14:25 PM PDT by BigEdLB (Let's get serious - there is only one choice - McCain/Palin 2008)
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To: LibWhacker
So a Led Zeppelin would actually float there?
7 posted on 10/06/2008 4:15:17 PM PDT by Steely Tom (Without the second, the rest are just politicians' BS.)
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To: Steely Tom

Well, if you go fishing, you’ll definitely need a different kind of sinker.


8 posted on 10/06/2008 4:18:57 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: LibWhacker

It’s a black hole that never made it to the big leagues.


9 posted on 10/06/2008 4:20:49 PM PDT by Kevmo (McCain's learning from Palin how to win a national election. Palin's learning from him how to lose 1)
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To: LibWhacker

No doubt a condensed dilithium deposit.


10 posted on 10/06/2008 4:22:39 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: BigEdLB

So what I want to know is... What’s it made of?


11 posted on 10/06/2008 4:23:21 PM PDT by mhx
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To: LibWhacker

I like Phil Plait. He’s a great astronomer. But he’s a left wing whacko. I used to post on his forum all the time until the Bushbash fest began. :(


12 posted on 10/06/2008 4:23:32 PM PDT by Crazieman (RIP USA. Killed by demonrats and RINOs like McLame. Welcome to the USSA)
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To: LibWhacker

Now we know where Rosie Odonnell came from.


13 posted on 10/06/2008 4:25:46 PM PDT by racnpartsales4u ("His sex organs took the heaviest blow," an unidentified nurse told the newspaper.)
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To: Leo Farnsworth

Obama is dense.


14 posted on 10/06/2008 4:31:48 PM PDT by Biggirl (Throw The Bums OUT!=^..^==^..^==^..^=)
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To: LibWhacker
We shall call it...


Planet Congress! /echo
15 posted on 10/06/2008 4:32:03 PM PDT by VanDeKoik (Stand Up For Chuck 2008!)
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To: Steely Tom
So a Led Zeppelin would actually float there?

Argh.

16 posted on 10/06/2008 4:32:54 PM PDT by Vroomfondel
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To: Leo Farnsworth

I heard it was named Olbermann, but 0bama works for me too. :-)

I loved Heaven Can Wait, btw.


17 posted on 10/06/2008 4:34:04 PM PDT by DemforBush (Palin! Palin! Palin!)
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To: LibWhacker
If I could stand on the surface of this planet, I’d weigh 4200 kilograms*. That’s over 9000 pounds!

There goes the diet!

18 posted on 10/06/2008 4:36:59 PM PDT by 6SJ7 (Welcome PUMAs!)
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To: LibWhacker

B=U=M=P everyone’s accusing me


19 posted on 10/06/2008 4:41:22 PM PDT by Skooz (Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us)
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To: LibWhacker

20 posted on 10/06/2008 4:42:56 PM PDT by Manic_Episode (Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps...)
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To: DemforBush

;-)


21 posted on 10/06/2008 4:46:53 PM PDT by Leo Farnsworth (I'm not really Leo Farnsworth...)
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To: LibWhacker
Dense planet because it has a higher mass per unit volume than lead or because it is stupider than a block of lead. Either way I dub it DU-world for either depleted uranium or Dummycratic Underworld.
22 posted on 10/06/2008 4:47:49 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (The $700B bail out is giving parachutes to bankers while we must keep our seat belts on and shut up.)
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To: dr_who

The galactic insane asylum.


23 posted on 10/06/2008 5:13:43 PM PDT by JoJo Gunn (War is sometimes necessary for weeding out the horrifically stupid.)
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To: Leo Farnsworth
It is rumored that this ‘denser than lead’ planet has been nicknamed: Obama.

Actually, it's the source of $400,000,000 in campaign contributions and reports to have registered 2,000,000,000 new Democratic voters.

24 posted on 10/06/2008 5:19:50 PM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (The Democratic Party strongly supports full civil rights for necro-Americans.)
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To: mhx
So what I want to know is... What’s it made of?

Bidinium and obamium bound by intermediate sorons.

25 posted on 10/06/2008 5:22:56 PM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (The Democratic Party strongly supports full civil rights for necro-Americans.)
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To: LibWhacker

weird is right.. That’s pretty dense stuff.

Thanks for posting this , I missed it earlier.


26 posted on 10/06/2008 7:47:29 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... Godspeed ... Donate to FR ... Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121)
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To: Manic_Episode

LOL! Funny!


27 posted on 10/16/2008 10:42:02 PM PDT by Bellflower (A Brand New Day Is Coming!)
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To: Bellflower

28 posted on 10/16/2008 11:18:56 PM PDT by Manic_Episode (Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps...)
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To: KevinDavis; annie laurie; garbageseeker; Knitting A Conundrum; Viking2002; Ernest_at_the_Beach; ...
Note: this topic is from October.
 
X-Planets
· join · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post new topic ·

29 posted on 11/28/2008 9:57:59 AM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_______Profile finally updated Saturday, October 11, 2008 !!!)
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To: SunkenCiv

There’s Gold in them thar hills.


30 posted on 11/28/2008 10:07:05 AM PST by Kevmo (Palin/Hunter 2012)
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To: Kevmo

:’) Miner 2049 flashback.


31 posted on 11/28/2008 10:55:38 AM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_______Profile finally updated Saturday, October 11, 2008 !!!)
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To: mhx
What’s it made of?

First guess: a miscalculation

32 posted on 11/28/2008 10:58:28 AM PST by RightWhale (Exxon Suxx)
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some cool graphics (a sort of update):

http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/sciencetech/densest-planet/5231
http://inlinethumb15.webshots.com/42958/2192232740104391629S600x600Q85.jpg
http://inlinethumb45.webshots.com/43308/2386266730103830173S600x600Q85.jpg


33 posted on 12/28/2008 3:08:25 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_______Profile finally updated Saturday, December 6, 2008 !!!)
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