Backwards Orbiting Planet Discovered by Graduate Students

August 13, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Two graduate students peering up into the sky through a powerful lens at the Geneva Observatory, made quite an unusual discovery recently, when spotting a distant planet that orbits around its host star backwards.

Every known planet orbits stars in the galaxy in the same direction that a star rotates, except this new backwards planet, called WASP-17, which is about 1,000 light-years away from Earth.

The two students, David Anderson at Keele University and Amaury Triaud of the Geneva Observatory, were working with the UK’s Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) project in collaboration with the Geneva Observatory.

The students believe WASP-17 may have been jolted into its unusual retrograde orbit by a near collision with another planet. Some astronomers believe Earth’s moon was created when Earth collided with another planet.

The students have learned some additional details about WASP-17. The planet is twice the size of Jupiter, but contains only half of its mass. Its described as a bloated puffy planet, like a balloon blown up to its capacity. The researchers believe the planet’s elliptical orbit causes the planet to heat up and stretch.

The backwards planet, WASP-17 is the 17th planet discovered so far by the WASP project.

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One Response to “Backwards Orbiting Planet Discovered by Graduate Students”

  1. Second Oddball Planet Found That Orbits Backwards | ChattahBox News Blog on August 14th, 2009 12:13 pm

    […] large gas planet, named WASP-17b was first spotted from the Geneva Observatory, orbiting around its host star in the opposite […]

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