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NASA Discovers Planet That Wobbles Like A Child’s Top

by Brandon Russell | February 9, 2014February 9, 2014 1:30 pm PDT

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A new planet, Kepler-413b, discovered by astronomers allegedly wobbles so wildly that its seasons fluctuate non-stop. According to a report from NASA, the planet’s spin axis varies by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to rapid and erratic changes in seasons. Weather here on Earth can be unpredictable, but imagine it being the middle of winter one week and the thick of summer the next. It would certainly be difficult to predict what to wear on any given day—and just imagine what your commute to work would be like. Awful.

NASA said the planet, which is considered a “super Neptune,” or a giant gas planet with no surface to stand on, spins wildly on its axis much like a child’s top, causing the unpredictable change in seasons.

“Looking at the Kepler data over the course of 1,500 days, we saw three transits in the first 180 days—one transit every 66 days—then we had 800 days with no transits at all,” said Veselin Kostov, principal investigator on the observation.

Kostov and his team predicts the planet is located 2,300 years away in the Cygnus constellation, and circles a close pair of orange and red dwarf stars every 66 days. According to the findings, Kepler 413-b’s orbit appears to wobble as well, moving up and down continuously. Because of this, astronomers won’t have an opportunity to view the next transit from Earth’s point of view until 2020.

Astronomers are stumped as to why the planet is behaving in such a way, though Kostov and his team have hypothesized that perhaps a third star is nearby exerting an influence, or other planetary bodies are tilting the orbit.

NASA

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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