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Because of the methods we use to identify extrasolar planets that orbit distant stars, our collection of known planets is biased towards what have been termed hot Jupiters, heavy planets orbiting close to their host stars. Yesterday, scientists announced the newest member of this class of planets, WASP-18b, and it's a monster: 10 times the mass of Jupiter, with an orbital period of less than a day. It's actually so close, that it will likely run into its host star within a fairly short period of time (at least in astronomical terms).

There's a small problem here, however. The star it's orbiting is roughly a billion years old, and the orbital decay should take WASP-18b into its surface in a fraction of a percent of that time. This means that we either got very lucky and caught the planet right in its death spiral, or the models we use to calculate its orbital decay are badly off.



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