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Star Gazing

Scientists in Denmark have recently discovered a distant planetary system harbouring two planets that orbit a star rotating backwards.

Simon Albrecht, a scientist with Aarhus University and his colleagues have found two stars that rotate backwards in a planetary system that is 897 light-years away from the Earth. The system, namely, K2-290 consists of three stars and has two planets orbiting the main star, K2-290 A.

Generally, in the planetary system, the planets and their stars rotate in the same direction. For example in our solar system, the Sun spins in almost the exact same direction as Earth and other seven planets.

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According to the scientists, when K2-290 A is compared with both planets’ orbits, its rotational axis is tilted by approximately 124 degrees, which indicates that the star spins in the opposite direction to its two orbiting planets.

Even though this misalignment has been observed before in other planetary systems, the reason given for the misalignment is the turbulence during star formation as stated in other theories.

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However, Albrecht and his colleagues maintained that the whole system is misaligned because of the presence of a companion star perhaps K2-290 B, which could have exerted gravitational forces that moved the disc.

K2-290 is considered unique because both planets are orbiting in the same plane. This further indicates that there is history to the planetary system after the spinning molecular cloud had evolved to become a star.

According to the reports by New Scientist, Chris Watson at Queen’s University Belfast, UK said that the fact that planets appear to be coplanar means that maybe it wasn’t a dynamically violent mechanism that caused them to migrate, as he hints the process towards the disc.

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“There are a lot of ways one can interpret the spin-orbit misalignment. However, one assumes that the actual planetary disc was aligned with the whole star in the first place,” he added.