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Flipping Jupiters! Why some planets spin backward

Flipping Jupiters! Why some planets spin backward

Main Image

Main Image

This false-color composite image, released by NASA September 23, 2010, shows the glow of auroras streaking out about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the cloud tops of Saturn's south polar regionNovember 1, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Leicester/Handout

WASHINGTON | Wed May 11, 2011 7:52pm EDT

(Reuters) - Some planets are just flipping backward.

Of the more than 500 planets detected around stars besides our Sun, the vast majority appear to spin the same way the star does, scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

But some of these extrasolar planets spin in the opposite direction of the stars they orbit, astronomers found. These strange, backward-spinning planets are usually gassy giants called hot Jupiters, not rocky orbs like Earth.

Besides their backwards twirling, which the astronomers call flipped orbits, these big planets huddle close to their stars, unlike Jupiter, which is about 483 million miles (778 million km) from the Sun, more than five times as distant from the Sun as Earth.

"That's really weird, and it's even weirder because the planet is so close to the star," Frederic Rasio of Northwestern University said in a statement.

"How can one be spinning one way and the other orbiting exactly the other way? It's crazy. It so obviously violates our most basic picture of planet and star formation."

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From The Urantia Book:

57:5.14 All of the solar system material derived from the sun was originally endowed with a homogeneous direction of orbital swing, and had it not been for the intrusion of these three foreign space bodies, all solar system material would still maintain the same direction of orbital movement. As it was, the impact of the three Angona tributaries injected new and foreign directional forces into the emerging solar system with the resultant appearance of retrograde motion. Retrograde motion in any astronomic system is always accidental and always appears as a result of the collisional impact of foreign space bodies. Such collisions may not always produce retrograde motion, but no retrograde ever appears except in a system containing masses which have diverse origins.

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