Friday, January 21, 2011

Big Star, Giant Planet, and Tides on the Star: Maybe

"Giant Alien Planet's Gravity May Make Star Pulsate" (January 19, 2011)

"A huge, scorching-hot alien planet may be causing its parent star to inflate and deflate like a balloon, a new study suggests.

"The star WASP-33 (also known as HD 15082) pulsates in two directions - radially, like a balloon, and non-radially, like the tides in Earth's oceans. These pulsations might be caused by the powerful gravity of the star's planet, WASP-33b - a phenomenon never seen before in a planetary system, researchers said.

"WASP-33 is hotter than our sun, and about 50 percent more massive. It's found about 380 light-years away, in the constellation Andromeda. WASP-33b, the star's one known planet, was first detected in 2006 and confirmed in 2010.

"WASP-33b is about four times as massive as Jupiter, and it's so close to its host star that it completes an orbit every 1.2 days. Because of this extreme proximity, WASP-33b is perhaps the hottest alien planet known, with surface temperatures reaching 5,780 degrees Fahrenheit (3,193 degrees Celsius), according to a recent study...."

Right now, what scientists have found is are "...intriguing hints that the pulsations are tied to — and perhaps caused by — WASP-33b's motion around the star...."

Looks like another case where we now know a little more about how much we don't know.

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