“We looked for companion planets near hot Jupiters in order to learn a bit more about their formation,” Ford said. “The lack of nearby planets supports the theory that a close encounter with another body in the system caused the elongation of the orbit. When a giant planet repeatedly passes through the inner regions of a planetary system on an elongated orbit, it would wreak great havoc on any planets that had formed there. The other planets would either fall into the star, collide with the hot Jupiter or be kicked out of the system via a gravitational slingshot.”
In 1995 the first planet orbiting a sun-like star was discovered. It and most exoplanets found in the early days of the exoplanet search happened to be hot Jupiters.
NASA’s Kepler Mission, operating since 2009, is revolutionizing the field of planetary science. For the first time it is enabling astronomers to conduct this kind of detailed population studies of planet candidates. By allowing astronomers to study systems other than our own, they are able to confront planet formation theories with observational data, giving important insights into the range of contemporary planetary system architectures and the possible existence of habitable planets within them.Credits
Eric B. Ford | EurekAlert!
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