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Paradigm upended?

19 Apr 2010, 16:31 UTC
Paradigm upended?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Controversy generates revenue for exoplanet weblogs and supermarket tabloids alike, so I’m always happy when planet-related press releases roll out dramatic, far-reaching claims. Last week’s ESO press release — “Turning Planetary Theory Upside Down” — was quite satisfactory in this regard…
Upon digging into the back story, one finds that the observations underlying the press release are fully uncontroversial — it’s the big-picture interpretation that’s turning heads. Using Doppler velocity measurements taken during transit, Triaud et al. (preprint here) have measured the sky-projected misalignment angles, λ, for six of the transiting planets discovered by the SuperWASP consortium.
After an initial run of nine transiting planets were found to have sky-projected misalignment angles close to zero, the current count now has 8 out of 26 planets sporting significant misalignment. In the standard paradigm where hot Jupiters form beyond the ice line and migrate inward to reach weekend-length orbits, one would expect that essentially all transiting planets should be more or less aligned with the equators of their parent stars.
The standard migration paradigm, however, leaves at least two questions rather vaguely answered. First, why do the hot Jupiters tend to halt their inward migration just at the brink of disaster? The ...

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