NASA said today that its Kepler space telescope has identified a "weird, wobbly" planet that spins wildly on its axis like a child's top.
The newly-discovered planet, which is being called Kepler-413b, has a spin axis that was found to vary by up to 30 degrees over 11 years. That means that the planet, which is in the constellation Cygnus and located 2,300 light years away, goes through extreme variations in its cycle of seasons. NASA pointed out that Earth's "rotational precession" is a mere 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years.
Every 66 days, Kepler 413-b rotates around a pair of red and orange dwarf stars, and even that orbit seems to wobble, NASA said, thanks to the fact that the plane of the orbit "is tilted 2.5 degrees with respect to the plane of the star pair's orbit." That means that someone watching from Earth would observe the orbit going up and down continuously.… Read more