“Our universe is full of lots of weird solar systems totally unlike our own” states Sarah Blunt, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Blunt is part of a team of scientists behind the discovery of a new exoplanet, which is a planet in a solar system outside ours.
Recently, astronomers have discovered a new exoplanet, unlike anything we have ever seen. Its name is HR 5183 b. The planet is about three times as massive as Jupiter. It takes a long, looping path around a star that is about 100 light years (5.88 trillion miles) away in the constellation Virgo. In an email, Blunt says, “It seems like every time we think we’ve found the weirdest solar system, something else totally strange is discovered.” The planet has an extreme elliptical orbit; it would move beyond Neptune to within Jupiter’s orbit if it were in our solar system.
Blunt has called the new planet a “wacky object,” because its movements speed up near the host star’s intense gravitation and slow down as soon as it moves away, beginning its cycle all over again. Blunt believes it was possible that the HR planet once had another planet nearby its orbit that may have bumped into it and pushed it into its unusual pattern, or maybe even something else that they have not thought of.
Brendan Bowler, an astronomer at the University of Texas said that this new discovery was a “steppingstone” and it’s good for understanding how planets form and their properties. “There’s a lot of next steps for this planet!” said Blunt.