- uploaded: Mar 20, 2012
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where to look for Extraterrestrial Life. What planets are likely to have the right conditions? And what makes Earth special? So far, in this age of planet hunting, we've yet to find anything like our solar system... with rocky inner planets in neat circular orbits, and evenly spaced gas giants on the periphery.
Instead, astronomers have glimpsed a diverse planetary zoo, with giant planets in wide orbits around their parent stars, others that swing in so close they leave a comet-like tail, or molten rocky worlds emblazoned with oceans of lava. These finds have added new complexity to theories of how solar systems emerge in the birth of a star.
As dust and gas swirl into the newborn star, they form a proto-planetary disk. Within this Frisbee-like structure, gravity sculpts planetary bodies that grow in size, sweeping up smaller bodies that form around them. Current theory holds that giant planets, forming on the periphery, commonly migrate into the inner solar system. This confirms the observation of so-called hot Jupiters orbiting perilously close to their parent stars.
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