Wacky World Wobbles Wildly




This is Scientific American 60-Second Space. I'm Clara Moskowitz. Got a minute?
If your local weather has been a pain lately, take heart, it could be a lot worse.
On an exoplanet found by NASA's Kepler satellite, the weather is downright bizarre.
Seasons change in moments because the planet's tilt axis wobbles like a top.
The planet, called Kepler-413b, orbits extremely close around a pair of binary stars.
Its tilt can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to extremely erratic seasons.
Earth's tilt hasn't changed that much over the last 26,000 years.
What's more, the planet's entire orbit around its stars wobbles and bobs.
In contrast, the planets in most systems we see stick to a relatively flat plane.
Astronomers don't know the source of this planet's oddities.
But they suspect that a hidden companion planet or even another nearby star may giving it a tug.
The resulting wacky weather on Kepler-413b would make living there truly unpleasant, if it were even possible.
Of course, its gaseous nature makes the planet uninhabitable—which is probably for the best.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Space. I'm Clara Moskowitz.