Astronomy continues to be surprising

‘Baby giant planet’ discovered just 330 light-years from Earth

“Baby” giant planets? And why is this interesting, anyway?

My first impression was that this was a very small giant planet, which didn’t immediately make sense. In fact — and you may all have caught on faster than I did — the headline is referring to a giant-giant planet that happens to be really young.

“The dim, cool object we found is very young and only 10 times the mass of Jupiter, which means we are likely looking at an infant planet, perhaps still in the midst of formation,” said the study’s lead author, Annie Dickson-Vandervelde

This is evidently one of the youngest planets we’ve found so far. It’s also a puzzle because it’s very far from its sun, and people are trying to figure out how it formed way out there, or at least how it wound up way out there.

I like this because I get a kick out of how very little we know about planetary science. I like how we trip over something weird and inexplicable practically every time we turn around. That makes the universe seem, I don’t know, bigger and more exciting.

Here’s another Astronomy one:

“Toffee Planets” Hint at Earth’s Cosmic Rarity

The concept of a planet made of toffee is entertaining, but I found this an easier headline to understand immediately. I figured it meant exactly this:

If these rocky super Earths have thick, Venus-like atmospheres or are especially close to their parent star, they might exhibit no familiarly brittle geology at their surface at all. Instead, … their surface rocks would be strangely malleable over long timescales, flowing a bit like the stretchy, sugary confections on offer in any earthly candy shop.

I like this one because it’s all wildly speculative. This particular suggestion — of how planets form and behave — depends on a tiny bit of data and a lot of mathematical modeling. The reason we trip over surprises all the time is first because we can’t get out there in space and look at stuff, and second because anything can be made to look plausible if you tweak the math the right way.

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2 thoughts on “Astronomy continues to be surprising”

  1. My 4 year old wanted to learn more about space, so I got some books from the library. She loved “The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal”, but I think she was offended by the lack of bears in the “Goldilocks Planet” one.

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