Hubble Telescope Reveals ‘Zombie’ Planet’s Effed-Up Orbit

Published:5:09 pm EDT, January 9, 2013| Updated:5:09 pm EDT, January 9, 2013|
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fomalhaut-b orbit

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured new images of "a vast debris disk" around the star Fomalhaut, and a "zombie" planet orbiting it is mystifying astronomers, according to Science Daily.

The debris belt has been proven to be wider than astronomers initially thought, but more surprising is the orbital path that a rogue, alien plane, Fomalhaut-b, follows, ranging from as close to its star at 4.6 billion miles away to as far as 27 billion miles away.

Paul Kalas from the University of California at Berkeley and the SETI Institute in California, who leads the team of the study of Fomalhaut, believes this to be evidence of the possibility of other planets in the star system to force it into such an unexpected orbit path.

Several hypotheses to explain Fomalhaut-b's 2,000-year-long orbit are being considered, including one in which another planet forced Fomalhaut-b into a position further from the star. Other Hubbel images also shed light on a gap that exists in the dust and ice belt, possibly carved by the path of another planet.

If Fomalhaut-b's orbit is in the same plane as the dust belt, then the two could intersect in 2032, and when the dust and ice crash into the planet's atmosphere, some serious cosmic fireworks could be seen. If Fomalhaut-b truly does collide with the icy debris belt, scientists will get a chance to see a planet entering something like the Kuiper Belt that lies at the fringe of our own solar system.

Fomalhaut is especially significant because it could give scientists an idea of what our solar system looked like 4 billion years ago.

After Fomalhaut-b's initial discovery in 2008, it was demoted from planet status and thought to just be a giant dust cloud, three times the mass of Jupiter. However, according to Business Insider, in 2012, it rose from the dead and regained its status as a planet, and was then dubbed a "zombie" planet. Astronomers are dorks.

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