Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hot on the heels of my post last month about a new extrasolar planet that had been photographed at an extraordinary 330 AU from its parent star, Space.com posted a new story that purports to explain why such planets are so hot. The article discusses the phenomenon of so-called “hot Jupiters,” gas giant planets that are generally found very close to their parent stars. Since this condition is a de-facto repudiation of the accretion model of planetary formation, scientists are becoming desperate to explain how the most massive planet’s can form so close to their parent stars and why they are so hot.

In the new model, proposed by Adam Showman of the University of Arizona, these Hot Jupiters are somehow tidally locked close to their parent stars, and heat from the star is transferred to the cool backside of planet through a complex series of winds and weather patterns, giving the planet a basically uniform temperature.

This idea is all well and good, but it is not based on actual observational evidence. Instead, this is simply an attempt to explain a contradictory observation within the established model, by building a computer simulation to demonstrate the idea. Obviously, if you build enough bias into the inputs, you can make the outcome anything you want.

Mainstream scientists and debunkers are fond of citing Occam’s Razor, the idea that all things being equal, the simplest explanation is the most likely one. Of course, rarely in the examples they cite are “all things equal,” and this is another case in point. One idea, the fission model which we discussed in the previous post, matches all observational phenomena relating to extra-solar planets. The other idea, the planetary accretion model, does not and requires multiple square pegs to be jammed into multiple round holes to even begin to reasonably reflect the observations. What is more likely under Occam’s Razor then, that these giant Hot Jupiters randomly formed so close to their parent stars and rely on a complex and highly unlikely chain of unproven assumptions to maintain their uniform (and uniformly hot) temperatures, or that the accretion model is simply wrong? Obviously, the simpler explanation is that these Hot Jupiters are fissioned off of their parent stars, just as the fission model suggests and are in the process of receding from them as we speak. Their hot temperatures are explained by the fact that they are made up of ejected stellar material, which would take many millions of years (most likely) to cool.

Not to mention, Occam’s Razor isn’t a scientific axiom anyway, it’s a T-shirt slogan.

1 comment:

R.E.II said...

I love your interest in space and would like to return here?