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Planets usually orbit their parents stars in the same direction that those stars rotate. In fact, all planets do this, except for one.
A newly discovered planet orbits in the opposite direction. It orbits backward when compared to the rotation of its parent sun. What created the backward orbit is unknown, although researchers believe a near-collision might have caused the rebellious orbit, A.K.A. a “retrograde orbit“.
The star and its newly found planet, WASP-17, are around 1,000 light-years away. The discovery was made by the UK’s Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) project along with Geneva Observatory. The discovery has not yet been published in a science journal.
“I would have to say this is one of the strangest planets we know about,” said Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at MIT who wasn’t a part of the discovery.
“I think it’s extremely exciting. It’s fascinating that we can study orbits of planets so far away,” Seager said. “There’s always theory, but there’s nothing like an observation to really prove it.”
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- WASP-17, Newfound Planet, Orbits Backward (huffingtonpost.com)
- A Planet That Orbits Its Star the Wrong Way (science.slashdot.org)
- Newfound Planet Orbits Backward (space.com)
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