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Forecasting the End: The Science of Rogue Planets

21 Mar 2013, 21:19 UTC
Forecasting the End: The Science of Rogue Planets
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I’m pleased to report that I had the opportunity to consult on (and occasionally appear in) an astronomy/geoscience/climate science crossover project for the Weather Channel this past year, entitled, Forecasting the End.
The show, which premiers this evening, uses extremely-low-probability astronomical or geophysical disasters as a hook to explore and present astronomy, geology, meteorology, and physics concepts in a novel (and admittedly fantastic) way.
Of the six-episode series, the first deals with the concept of so-called “rogue” planets, a timely subject of recent research.
What is a Rogue Planet?
Many astrophysicists, astronomers, and exoplanetologists have set their research sights on puzzling out exactly how it is that new star systems go about forming planets, (in this case “exoplanets,” or planets outside our solar system). Interestingly, the fruits of their labor have in recent years led to the realization that the process is a frequently violent one. -So violent, in fact, that during the gravity tango performed between a fledgling solar system’s new planets, one of these “dancers” is thrown right off of the dance floor.
In other words, it seems that planets are often ejected from their home star system in the chaos surrounding a newly-formed star. This actually serves ...

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