How to Console Your Very Obese Planet

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In one of the stranger headlines I've read today, New Scientist is reporting that several planets struggle with obesity issues. According to the report, a number of planets referred to as "hot Jupiters" go through an overweight stage. What's weirder is that for years, scientists couldn't figure out why planets that should measure a certain width were 30% larger than predicted. But apparently, Princeton's Laurent Ibgui has a new theory about it. According to Ibgui's model, it's the very gassy planets with highly elliptical orbits that are most prone to this "superpuffed" phenomenon. Here's how New Scientist explains it:

"These planets are alternately squeezed and stretched as they circle their stars, resulting in "tidal heating" that warms the gas inside the planet. This counteracts the cooling effect, inflating the planet - an effect that can last for a billion years or more."

It's tough news for obese planets that they'll have to do a billion or more laps before they start losing weight, but here's hoping they stick to their routine.  More at New Scientist.

June 22, 2009 - 7:21am
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