• May 6, 2010

    Episode 274: Exoplanets in Retrograde Orbit

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    The conventional concept of extrasolar planet formation is that the objects form out of the dusty material circling the parent star. As a cloud of gas and dust collapses and rotates, the star forms at the center, leaving behind a remnant of cloud that forms a disk as it continues to rotate. As the dusty disk churns along, planets form in orbit around the star. In our solar system, the planets orbit in the same direction as the Sun rotates. The dynamics of planet formation suggest that this is the usual situation, but new observations have found Jupiter-sized planets orbiting in a backwards or skewed fashion. It's a puzzle to understand how these systems form.