NASA’s Kepler space telescope is adrift in space searching for planets. On Tuesday, NASA announced the telescope found a planet 2,300 light-years from Earth that “wobbles wildly on its spin axis.”
The wobble leads to erratic changes in season. Astronomers are not sure why the planet, named Kepler-413b, is out of alignment with its stars. Other planetary bodies may have tilted the orbit or another star may be influencing the planet.
Astronomers also question whether many planets out there behave this way; it may be we just haven’t caught them in action.
“Presumably there are planets out there like this one that we’re not seeing because we’re in the unfavorable period,” said Peter McCullough, a team member with the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, in a NASA release. “And that’s one of the things that Veselin is researching: Is there a silent majority of things that we’re not seeing?”
Kepler spots planets by picking up on the dimming of stars as planets pass over them.
The newly discovered planet is too hot to have water on it, and it is made of gas, so life as we know it could not exist there.