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Odd planet's extreme global warming: Highs of 2240

A study published in the latest issue of Nature indicates there is a distant planet -- HD 80606b -- which is four times the size of Jupiter and is able to heat up more than 1,200 degrees in just six hours.

"We watched the development of one of the fiercest storms in the galaxy," Lick Observatory astronomer Greg Laughlin said in a statement.  "If you could float above the clouds of this planet, you'd see its sun growing larger and larger at faster and faster rates, increasing in brightness by almost a factor of 1,000."

The NASA Spitzer Space Telescope was used to study the changing weather on HD 80606b -- a first for a planet outside of our solar system. It also has a very distinct orbit, as it comes closer to its sun than Mercury's distance from the Earth's sun, before launching away to be just as far as Earth is from the sun.

When it's closest to the sun, radiation is 800 times stronger than when it is orbiting far away from the sun.  The planet orbits the star in 111 days.  The extremely high heat and severe temperature changes obviously make it unlikely any signs of life exist on the planet.

"The orbit is extremely eccentric," Laughlin said in the NASA statement.  "Of the expolanets that have been detected -- we've observed 300 -- this is the most extreme orbit we've seen so far."

The odd orbit accounts for the planet's extreme temperature change, with the planet normally averaging a temperature around 980 degrees.

Astronomers look forward to learning more about the planet, especially its odd orbit that causes extreme temperature changes.  They also want to try and get a direct image of the planet sometime in the future, and leave behind artist's interpretations.

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RE: life on eccentric orbit bodies
By StevoLincolnite on 1/30/2009 12:08:46 AM , Rating: 3
That is Carbon based life forms, there "could" be other life-forms which aren't carbon based like what we have on earth, something like a Sulfur based life form would be a completely different kettle of fish, where we wont be able to predict it's requirements to sustain it's own life.

The issue is that we are looking for "Carbon" based life forms, if the universe is infinite, and if Aliens exist, there would be more variations.

RE: life on eccentric orbit bodies
By myhipsi on 1/30/2009 1:35:31 PM , Rating: 2
There could be other life forms which aren't carbon based, anything is possible. But in reality, not probable. The reason why all known life is carbon based is not necessarily because earth is unique, but because of the special properties of the carbon atom that make IT unique, like the fact the they contain 4 valence electrons, that it can form bonds with itself and that it can readily form bonds with other organic elements like hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

My guess is that whereever we find life outside of our planet (most likely outside of our solar system) they'll be carbon based. Physics and chemistry are universal, so my hunch is that it doesn't matter where in the universe we may find life, it will be similar to life on earth in the sense that it will be carbon based, it will contain organic molecules, and it will thrive in similar conditions as life does here on earth.

My 2 cents.

RE: life on eccentric orbit bodies
By Hellfire27 on 1/30/2009 6:32:56 PM , Rating: 2
I remember reading somewhere that on a planet with a high natural temperature, that it would be more likely to evolve Silicon based life forms. Apparently these lifeforms would be more well suited to stand up against higher gravity forces and heat.

RE: life on eccentric orbit bodies
By myhipsi on 1/30/2009 9:16:29 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, while it seems silicon is chemically very similar to carbon, it has a fatal flaw which makes it different, and thus unsuitable for the basis of life.

Excerpt from website

When carbon is oxidized during the respiratory process of a terrestrial organism, it becomes the gas carbon dioxide – a waste material that is easy for a creature to remove from its body. The oxidation of silicon, however, yields a solid because, immediately upon formation, silicon dioxide organizes itself into a lattice in which each silicon atom is surrounded by four oxygens. Disposing of such a substance would pose a major respiratory challenge.

Life-forms must also be able to collect, store, and utilize energy from their environment. In carbon-based biota, the basic energy storage compounds are carbohydrates in which the carbon atoms are linked by single bonds into a chain. A carbohydrate is oxidized to release energy (and the waste products water and carbon dioxide) in a series of controlled steps using enzymes. These enzymes are large, complex molecules (see proteins) which catalyze specific reactions because of their shape and "handedness." A feature of carbon chemistry is that many of its compounds can take right and left forms, and it is this handedness, or chirality, that gives enzymes their ability to recognize and regulate a huge variety of processes in the body. Silicon's failure to give rise to many compounds that display handedness makes it hard to see how it could serve as the basis for the many interconnected chains of reactions needed to support life.

The absence of silicon-based biology, or even silicon-based prebiotic chemicals, is also suggested by astronomical evidence. Wherever astronomers have looked – in meteorites, in comets, in the atmospheres of the giant planets, in the interstellar medium, and in the outer layers of cool stars – they have found molecules of oxidized silicon (silicon dioxide and silicates) but no substances such as silanes or silicones which might be the precursors of a silicon biochemistry.

That's not to say we won't find artificial "electronic" life based on silicon, but it seems physically and chemically impossible for biological life to be based on silicon.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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