Thu, 06 Dec 2007 08:18 CST
|Professor Steve Miller, the final contributing author to the paper, puts the discovery into context: "This gives us an insight to the evolution of giant planets, which typically form as an ice core out in the cold depths of space before migrating in towards their host star over a period of several million years. Now we know that at some point they all probably cross this point of no return and undergo a catastrophic breakdown."
London, UK - Planetary scientists at UCL have identified the point at which a star causes the atmosphere of an orbiting gas giant to become critically unstable, as reported in this week's Nature
(December 6). Depending upon their proximity to a host star, giant Jupiter-like planets have atmospheres which are either stable and thin, or unstable and rapidly expanding. This new research enables us to work out whether planets in other systems are stable or unstable by using a three dimensional model to characterise their upper atmospheres.