Gaseous Planet May be Rocky


National Geographic News: “New Planet Found; May Be Cosmic Rosetta StoneA faraway gaseous planet may also be, in a metaphorical sense, “rocky”: astronomers hope it will be a “Rosetta stone” for exoplanetary research.

Planet CoRoT-9b is a newly discovered “exoplanet”—that is, a planet found outside our solar system, orbiting a star other than the sun. Like nearly every exoplanet discovered, CoRoT-9b is a gas giant; in that regard, it is not particularly special. Why the news, then?

Moutou believes CoRoT-9b may be similar to Jupiter and Saturn.

CoRoT-9b’s orbit places it directly between its host star and our own planet every 95 days. For the eight hours the planet is directly between us and its star, astronomers can study changes in the light the star gives off to try to infer the composition of CoRoT-9b’s atmosphere.

What makes the planet special, however, is that unlike most exoplanets discovered to date, CoRoT-9b’s orbit is not extremely close to its host star. Because of this, most of these so-called “hot Jupiters” discovered to date are thought to be unrepresentative of most gas giants in the universe.

“We hope that when we can investigate this planet, it will have characteristics which are close to other giant gas planets outside our solar system,” explained study member Claire Moutou of the Laboratory of Astrophysics of Marseilles, who dubbed the planet a potential Rosetta stone. Moutou believes CoRoT-9b may be similar to Jupiter and Saturn in our own solar system.

Not only is it fascinating to learn more about the planets God has placed in our universe; it is also interesting to learn how different the known exoplanets are from our own Earth.

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