The Kepler Telescope was launched into space and began transmitting data last year. It’s job is to find evidence of planets outside our solar system, especially Earth-like ones. It is the first telescope that will be able to detect such small planets on orbits in their stars’ habitable zones (where the temperature is right for liquid water). Already Kepler has found five Jovian-class planets and found two objects that are unexpected and unexplained by current astronomic theory. They orbit close to their suns but are several times hotter, despite not being normal stars themselves. They’ve been christened ‘hot companions’:
“The surface temperatures of the hot companions exceed 10,000 Kelvin degrees. Their radii are 0.4 and 0.9 times the radius of Jupiter, which works out to about 4.5 and 10 times the size of Earth. The hot companions have masses less than 0.01 times the Sun’s mass.”*
There are two preliminary theories – old white dwarf stars that are losing their surface to the primary star, and newly formed planets. But stars shouldn’t be that small and light, and they’re rarely that hot. Planets certainly shouldn’t be that hot, they don’t generate enough internal energy.
What if they’re artificial. What if someone made them.
It seems like the perfect explanation for huge but relatively light and, apparently, unnaturally hot objects. If you could build on the scale there are all sorts of things you could do that might look like this. A stellar drive, using gravity and deflected radiation to move a solar system. Or antimatter production to power spaceships. Or a Dyson Sphere. And those are only ideas humans have come up already. A different species, with far more advanced tech might build these super-hot objects for any reason, even ones we can’t imagine, or just for the hell of it.
Yeah, I know, I know. There’s probably a natural explanation. But I just think it would be so cool if we set out to find evidence of Earth-like planets and accidentally stumbled across proof of intelligent life.
Btw, if you’ve ever wondered why it seems they only discover really big planets orbiting really close to their suns its because of the detection methods, not what’s out there. We can detect a planet by the way its gravity makes its star wobble slightly as it orbits – it has to be big, close, and orbiting fast to make a wobble we can see. Or, like Kepler does, we can look for the slight dimming of a star as the planet passes in front – again, big, close, and short orbits is easier to see. So Kepler will be able to detect dimming from Earth-size planets further out from their suns but it takes three orbits to be sure you’ve seen a planet and so far they’ve only been looking for 43 days. With both methods you can only see planets whose orbits are side-on to Earth, so there’s obviously heaps more.
Btw2, you have to laugh, if only not to cry, at the scientific illiteracy of the AP reporter who wrote the first article and is meant to be explaining a scientific discovery to the public. “How hot? Try 14,425 degrees Celsius. That is hot enough to melt lead or iron.” Um, lead will melt on your BBQ. 14,425 degrees will melt Tantalum hafnium carbide, the compound with the highest melting temperature known to humanity. Anything we know about is a plasma at that temperature. And “They are bigger and hotter than planets in our solar system, including dwarf planets” Wow, and are they older than people, including babies?