Thursday, January 31, 2008

Globalization and Climate Change

Imagine a CEO of a small company in Taylorville Illinois. He produces small electronic gadgets based on a patent he is fighting the patent office for. He already has several clients with businesses in the hundreds of thousand dollars, some components are made in China and the final product is assembled in the Mexico-US border.
The clients are in a hurry to install their products. Now it is snowing in China, and Americans have to show passports to come back from Mexico or Canada. He is late delivering his product.
He may lose his client or not, but he has to worry about many more things coming out right, than somebody making a living a hundred years ago in Taylorville.
At this level it doesn't really matter if we know where exactly is it going to snow tomorrow at noon. The more global his business gets and the more the climate change, the harder it will be to make a living for him, no matter what.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Snow in China and Unexpected Crises

The Associated Press reports a crisis in China. Millions of people stranded, their plans ruined. The problem is not so much that there is a lot of snow, but that China has grown too fast and doesn't have the trucks and other equipment to deal with these problems.
Imagine what would happen if the north magnetic pole switches places with the south pole, as has happened in our planet thousands of years ago. Who is prepared for the barrage of ultraviolet light and other harmful radiations getting through our protection shield?
According with some 2012 doom-sayers there will be more problems than just increased radiation from the Sun. They talk about tsunamis and earthquakes, an apocalyptic scenario. They say we should go to high mountains in South Africa.
As far as I am concerned I will keep my eyes open for unusual weather.
Millions of Chinese stranded in their New Year vacation, definitely qualifies as a noteworthy event.

China Snow Crisis Shows Vulnerability

SHANGHAI, China (AP) — China's worst winter storms in five decades have highlighted the vulnerabilities of the country's booming economy, bringing transportation and much industry to a halt and prompting the government to deploy nearly 500,000 army troops to assist troubled areas Wednesday.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Near-Earth Asteroid 2007 TU24 to Pass Close to Earth Jan.29

Correction to badastronomy.com which made front page. Asteroid 2007 TU24, discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on October 11, 2007 will closely approach the Earth to within 1.4 lunar distances (334,000 miles) on 2008 Jan. 29 08:33 UT. This object, between 150 and 600 meters in diameter.

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Asteroid 2007 TU24 to Pass Close to Earth on Jan.29

For a brief time the asteroid will be observable in dark and clear skies with amateur telescopes of 3 inch apertures or larger

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2007 TU24

Today this object is closest to Earth:

From Wikipedia:

"Goldstone Observatory carried out further observations of this asteroid on January 23 and January 24, 2008. Now the trajectory of this asteroid is known with such a high precision that scientists are able to calculate close approaches of this asteroid from the year 67 AD to 2141 AD. On January 29, 2008 at 08:33 UTC, asteroid 2007 TU24 will flyby the earth at distance 537,500 Km (0.003704 AU) with relative speed 9.248 Km/s.[9]"

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sen. Kennedy Backs Obama for President

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two generations of Kennedys -- the Democratic Party's best known political family -- endorsed Barack Obama for president on Monday, with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy calling him a ''man with extraordinary gifts of leadership and character,'' a worthy heir to his assassinated brother.

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It is Obama!

I just saw Barack Obama graciously hug Ted, Caroline, and Ted's son Patrick Kennedy at the American University in Washington. They all endorse his bid for the Presidency of the US. I am very moved. Obama said that his father could come from Kenya to the US, because John F. Kennedy worked to get Kenyan students to study in the US.

Now he is paying back, because his father passed away, and cannot give back what he enjoyed. I feel this is a historic moment.

Edward F. Kennedy said:

''There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a new frontier. He faced criticism from the preceding Democratic president, who was widely respected in the party,'' Kennedy said, referring to Harry S. Truman.

''And John Kennedy replied, 'The world is changing. The old ways will not do. ... It is time for a new generation of leadership.

''So it is with Barack Obama,'' he added.


The New John F. Kennedy is now Barack Obama!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Return of Native Americans as Immigrants

The United States is seeing a resurgence of Native Americans in the form of immigrants who are descendents of North America’s indigenous populations. As Native Americans, they are terrifying precisely because they have a moral claim to cross the borders imposed on their lands, writes NAM contributor Louis E.V. Nevaer.

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Rain, winds cause Mexico City blackouts

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Rain and unusually strong winds knocked out power to large swathes of Mexico City Wednesday night and killed one person who was crushed by a falling tree, city officials said.

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End of the World in Mexico?

I was reading La Jornada, a Mexico City newspaper and found this:

“Aquí se sintió horrible. Todo fue muy repentino, comenzó como un viento seco, fuerte, fuera de lo normal, a lo lejos se veían como luces de explosiones, pero después comenzó como a lloviznar, nada más unas gotitas. La verdad parecía como el fin del mundo”.

José Leonardo, comerciante

"Here it felt horrible. Everything was very sudden, it started as a dry wind, strong, not normal, far away one could see like lights from explosions, but later it started like a light rain, just a few drops. The truth is that it seemed like the end of the world"

José Leonardo, sales person.

I have been looking for signals to understand climate change. This qualifies; I do not remember strong winds that dropped eighteen feet trees on top of cars killing passengers inside in Mexico City, and I lived there twenty three years. Four people died and many lost electric power service to their homes.

I will keep looking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Understandable Universe

Given that several thinkers in different ways have pointed out this state of the Universe, it may not be a surprise to some readers that I write this.
In particular I was inspired by an article in Science magazine about the Cosmic Web. I start with a description of this Web and then I make the connections to understandability of the Universe.
Several years ago the so-called Lyman alpha forest was found. A series of spectrographic lines in the light of distant quasars are measured on Earth. In between us and the quasar there is a structure, first suspected by Zeldovich, and then calculated by Navarro, Frenk, and White, among others. This observation can be understood by assuming that the Universe has the structure of a "Cosmic Web".
Due to gravity matter clumps. One gets three main types of objects, surfaces, lines, and points, in three dimensions. A uniform distribution of elementary particles subject to the force of gravity attract each other due to a natural instability of a purely attractive force, as Zeldovich suspected, and later proved by Navarro et al.. Consequently, through linear paths, matter flows towards density singularities that coalesce to points, finally everything ends in black holes. The universe is in a continuous state of collapse: Linear motion balanced by rotational motion.
Our Milky Way together with Andromeda, the biggest two galaxies in our galaxy cluster, suck in matter continuously. This matter comes to us through the strings in the huge Cosmic Web, from all over the Universe. There are a few small galaxies moving faster than the rest that just came from these pipes.
Now what about understandability?
Some astronomers like Guillermo González from Iowa State University elevate this to a fundamental property of our Universe, I am not willing to say that much; but after reading his book "The Privileged Planet", I am willing to give this idea serious consideration. In any case the ideas presented here, in my mind, stand on their own ground.
The Cosmic Web is a fractal structure, as Swift said, fleas on top of fleas to infinity. Our own conception from an egg and a sperm, is through a similar process by which these little fast galaxies (sperms) come to our big galaxy (egg), to bring nutrients, and maybe information. Then our thoughts arranged themselves in a holographic structure as, David Bohm believed, going through a brain web, with similar dendrites, synapses, and neurons, as Santiago Ramon y Cajal proposed so many years ago.

How to Stop the Downturn

By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZPublished: January 23, 2008AMERICA’S economy is headed for a major slowdown. Whether there is a recession (two quarters of negative growth) is less important than the fact that the economy will operate well below its potential, and unemployment will grow. The country needs a stimulus, but anything we do will add to...

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Markets in Flux After Fed Move

Stocks opened sharply lower in volatile trading on Wall Street on Tuesday morning but made up much of their losses by midday after the Federal Reserve announced an emergency rate cut in the face of a worldwide sell-off.

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Scale of global credit crisis is staggering

The total amounts of credit default swaps (a form of debt insurance) outstanding is at $45.5 trillion --about twice the value of the US stock market, and three times the value of the US GDP (($13 trillion). This could lead "to a generalized meltdown of the financial system of a severity and magnitude like we have never observed before."

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Fed Makes Emergency 0.75% Rate Cut

The Federal Reserve, responding to an international stock sell-off and the likelihood of a sharp drop in America on Tuesday morning, cut its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point.

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American contagion?

Today I read in the New York Times:

"A decade after a credit crisis in Southeast Asia triggered an “Asian contagion” of stock market declines around the world, the credit crisis in the United States is now producing an “American contagion” to which no stock market seems immune."

"He added that he did not believe that Asian economies had decoupled at all from the American economy, because so many companies now have closely integrated operations around the world."

Last night a friend of mine invited me to join a company with Asian and Mexican operations.

Is the US bringing everybody down?

I do not think so, and here is why.

I may have to pay a lot for the mortgage of the house I live in, but if I go back to Mexico, I own my house. I do not have to pay a lot. Besides problems there are different than problems here. I have not been to China, but my friend just started an operation there. I cannot imagine similar conditions everywhere. At most some very important actors are being affected by changes, they will have to adapt.

I see one common problem, that all of us will have to adapt to though, Global Warming.

Maybe that will be an equalizer. We better watch out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jesús Reyes Corona

I met Jesús in 1971 at the Physics Department at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados (CINVESTAV). I took an Electrodynamics class from him. He taught the class using the Berkeley Physics Course in Electricity and Magnetism by the Nobel Prize winner, Edward M. Purcell, from Taylorville Illinois. That was a great class. It helped that I had used the book before in my introduction to Electricity and Magnetism at Escuela Superior de Ingeniería Mecánica y Eléctrica, with Professor Arturo Nava Jaimes, now the General Coordinator of Technological Universities in Mexico.

Jesús was elegant and intelligent. He was young and married around the time I met him, from 1971 to 1973. I met his son Leonardo before I went to Santa Barbara in 1973.

Later in life I met him again at the Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (UAP), where he had started theoretical physics work in the late seventies. Carlos Cambero, Rafael Baquero, and him, were the strong influx of talent and energy that started a new life in this, one of the oldest institutions in Theoretical Physics in Mexico.

They started the Instituto de Fisica and I was hired by the Escuela de Física. The idea was that "good" people had to to go to the Institute eventually. I was in talks with Jesús to move to the Institute, when he unexpectedly died in a plane crash near Los Angeles in the late eighties. I stayed at the Escuela, which eventually was upgraded to Facultad.

Nowadays I am proud to report that the Facultad has received one million dollars for ten years of experimental work at the European Center of High Energy Physics starting last summer.

The Centre Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire, now hosts UAP students to work toward their Philosophy Doctor degrees in Physics.

We have come a long way Jesús; I miss you.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Don’t Cry for Me, America

By PAUL KRUGMANPublished: January 18, 2008Mexico. Brazil. Argentina. Mexico, again. Thailand. Indonesia. Argentina, again.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Are Energies of 1020 eV the Highest We Will Ever See?

It seems impossible to ever create an Earth based accelerator to study this energy range. Given the now confirmed cosmic limit of Greisen, Zatespin and Kuzmin, I guess this is the highest energy we will ever experimentally study in particle physics.

NASA Satellites Capture Start of New Solar Cycle

On January 4, a reversed-polarity sunspot appeared, signalling the start of Solar Cycle 24. Solar activity waxes and wanes in 11-year cycles and the previous solar cycle, Solar Cycle 23, peaked in 2000-2002 with many furious solar storms.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Sunspot Activity To Wreak Havoc With Electronics

Scientists say the arrival of Sunspot No.10,981 signals the beginning of a cycle of solar storms that could make everything from your cell phone to the GPS navigation system in your car temporarily stop working. And in severe storms, experts say it's possible entire power grids could be knocked out, leaving millions in the dark.

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2012

Some people say that the Mayans expected interesting extra solar events by the year 2012. Yo can read this abc News item:

Sun May Be to Blame
I just quote an interesting section:

"Experts say the periods of solar storm activity should gradually increase, peaking by the year 2011 or 2012."

We are in "Solar Cycle 24", whatever that means.

BREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR:

The Runners-UpThe News StaffHere you have the nine second more important breakthroughs of 2007 according to Science Magazine

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Implications of Auger Observations

The recently announced discovery of anisotropy in the direction of arrival of the ultra high energy cosmic rays (UHECR) by the Auger collaboration is giving us a new window to the Universe.

The simplest interpretation is that we know the source of these UHECRs, and they are protons. That is in fact what this collaboration announced in their Science paper.

Nevertheless we cannot yet make this conclusion as Professor Lemoine points out in his paper with Kumiko Kotera, mentioned in the note below.

In any case it is clear that we know more about the near Universe, one GZK unit distance away from us, than before this collaboration made the tremendous efforts required to build the biggest detector ever created to measure UHECRs.

One GZK distance unit is about 100 Mpc. Anything up to that distance goes almost unimpeded by the microwave background radiation between sources there, and us.

Once the northern counterpart of this global observatory is built in Colorado, for several years we will have a sampling of, either the last high magnetic field concentrations as Lemoine says, or maybe the real sources of these new probes to the Universe. No other telescope can do this, not the Hubble, nor any other of the existing ones. For the time being, our only source of information about UHECR physics in our neck of the woods, is given by the Pierre Auger Observatory (PAO).

These PAO observations were chosen by Science Magazine as the THIRD most important science news of 2007.

Congratulations to the Auger Collaboration!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Martin Lemoine

This French expert on Cosmic Rays, writes in "The optical depth of the Universe for ultra-high energy cosmic ray scattering in the magnetized large scale structure"; the following:

"For instance, if most sources lie beyond the last scattering surface, one could mistake the scattering centers on the last scattering surface (such as starbursts, old radio-galaxies or giant shock waves) with the source of ultra-high energy cosmic rays."

Given the real possibility now of finding the sources for the highest energy cosmic rays, one should understand well the interaction of these particles with the magnetic field between galaxies.

He then goes on to argue:

"Since scattering centers are highly magnetized regions, and as such are probably associated with active objects such as radio-galaxies, one may be deceived by their presence on the line of sight, and interpret them as the source of ultra-high energy cosmic rays. The smoking gun of such counterfeiting is the distance scale to these objects: in this optically thick regime, most counterparts would be located at a distance scale d (which can be measured) significantly smaller than the expected distance scale lmax (which is known)."

Almost at the end they write:

"In particular, in the semi-transparent or opaque regime, the closest object lying in the cosmic ray arrival direction should be a scattering center. Since these scattering centers are sites of intense magnetic activity (radio-galaxies, starburst galaxies, shock waves, ...), they might be mistaken with the source. This peculiar feature does not arise in models in which magnetic deflection is a continuous process in an all-pervading magnetic field.
One could thus conceive an “ironic” scenario, in which cosmic rays are accelerated in gamma-ray bursts, but scatter against radio-galaxies magnetized lobes, so that one interpret these latter as the source of cosmic rays because they are the only active objects seen on the line of sight. If such counterfeiting is taking place, one should observe that the apparent distance scale to the source (actually the distance to the last scattering surface) is smaller than the expected distance scale to the source (determined by the energy losses). This offers a simple way to test for the above effect.
In the semi-transparent regime, the source is displaced from the arrival direction by a non-zero (yet smaller than unity) deflection angle. Increasing the threshold energy above which one searches for counterparts certainly provides the way to evade this magnetic effect and identify the source. Indeed, as shown in Section II, the optical depth falls rapidly with increasing energy, in combination of the decreasing distance scale to the sources (which is limited by energy losses) and the decreasing deflection angle per scattering. Furthermore, a fraction exp( −τ ) of all events should have suffered negligible deflection in the intergalactic magnetic field. Hence it appears important to consider searches for counterparts on an event by event basis, focusing on events with extreme energies > 1020 eV, rather than a statistical correlation with astrophysical catalogs. This, however, requires large aperture experiments such as Auger North [74] in view of the strongly decreasing flux at the highest energies."

Even more important, they point out:

"As mentioned previously, this scenario can be tested by comparing the expected source distance scale with the counterpart distance scale. Interestingly, both do not match, as the source distance scale for particles with observed energy 6 × 1019 eV is of the order of 200 Mpc, significantly larger than the maximum distance of 75 Mpc for the observed counterparts. This fact has been noted in Ref. [2]; it remained mostly unexplained, although it was suggested in this work that both distance scales would agree if the energy scale were raised by 30%.
More quantitatively, one can calculate the probability that a given event with a given observed energy originates from a certain distance, using the fraction of the flux contributed by sources within a certain distance at a certain energy. This probability law can be calculated using the techniques developed in Ref. [70], then tabulated. It is then possible to calculate the probability of seeing 20 out 27 events from a source located within 75 Mpc using the events energies reported in Ref. [2]. This probability is small, about 3%; the mean lies at 15 events out of 27 coming from within 75 Mpc. If one restricts the set of events to those that lie outside the Galactic plane ( |b| >12 ◦ ), with 19 out of 21 seen to correlate, the probability becomes marginal, of order 0.1% (the mean lies at 12 out 21 within 75 Mpc). Finally, if one restricts oneself to the second set of events collected after May 27 2006, and on those which lie outside of the Galactic plane, with 9 out of 11 seen to correlate, the probability becomes of order 10%, with a mean at 7 out 11 within 75 Mpc. In this latter case, the signal is less significant, but the statistics is also smaller. Since the above estimates do not take into account the uncertainty on the energy, and since they assume continuous instead of stochastic energy losses, these numbers should be taken with caution."

They conclude:

"In this framework, it becomes imperative to probe the arrival directions on an event by event basis, focussing on the most energetic events. In the catalog reported in Ref. [2], there is only one event above 1020 eV, whose arrival direction has a relatively small super-Galactic latitude, bSG ≃ −6.5 ◦ . In the above scenario, one should expect to find a scattering center on the line of sight, hence it should prove useful to perform a deep search in this direction in the radio domain, looking for traces of synchrotron emission that would attest of the presence of a locally enhanced intergalactic magnetic field. More events at higher energies, as expected from future detectors, will certainly help in this regard."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Scientists trace cosmic rays to black holes

An international team of scientists said Thursday that they have tracked down the origin of the mysterious "Oh-My-God" particle -- a cosmic ray bearing energies millions of times larger than the most powerful particle accelerator can produce on Earth.

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Centaurus A: X-Rays from an Active Galaxy

Its core hidden from optical view by a thick lane of dust, the giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A was among the first objects observed by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory. Astronomers were not disappointed, as Centaurus A's appearance in x-rays makes its classification as an active galaxy easy to appreciate. Perhaps the most striking ...

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Unite, Not Divide, Really This Time

The New Hampshire primary has done Americans a service by leaving both parties' nominating contests open and giving a truly broad range of voters a chance to weigh in on these vitally important choices. The coming contests will be colored in large part by how far the contenders are willing to go to win.

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John McCain

This Vietnam veteran won the primary in New Hampshire. Does it mean that all the people are choosing, and not only the monied people?

Primordial Black Holes

Today is Stephen Hawking's birthday. Several years ago he made a prediction: In the beginning matter collapsed into black holes. These are called primordial black holes (PBH). These PBHs explode at the end of their lives. Right now those with a mass equal to one mountain and a size equal to a proton are exploding, changing mass into energy. The moment one of these events is observed, and Hawking has not died, he will get a Nobel Prize.

Last year the Auger Collaboration announced in-homogenous detection of cosmic rays. In particular, in the direction of the Centaurus A galaxy, two particles with energies of 84 EeV, and 70 EeV, were detected. One Exa-electron-volt (EeV) is 1018 eV.

If these two particles were produced by PBH, Hawking will get his prize. But how could we know?

Actually I will be satisfied if one can prove that Centaurus A has a nucleus produced by PBHs. I do not know how to prove that.

In Greenland, Ice and Instability

The ancient frozen dome cloaking Greenland is so vast that pilots have crashed into what they thought was a cloud bank spanning the horizon. Flying over it, you can scarcely imagine that this ice could erode fast enough to dangerously raise sea levels any time soon.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Black Holes Inside Galaxies

By now it is clear that galaxies have black holes in their centers. One interesting question is: How do galaxies get their black holes?
I can see two answers, they made them, or vice versa.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

From Hype to Fear

By PAUL KRUGMANPublished: January 7, 2008The unemployment report on Friday was brutally bad. Unemployment rose in December, while job creation was minimal — and it’s highly likely, for technical reasons, that the job number will be revised down, showing an actual decline in employment.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The Obama Phenomenon

By BOB HERBERTPublished: January 5, 2008Manchester, N.H.The historians can put aside their reference material. This is new. America has never seen anything like the Barack Obama phenomenon.

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Northen California Under Stress

One can read the AP story:

“It’s an exceptional storm,” said Rhett Milne, a Reno meteorologist with the Weather Service. “If you do get stranded, it’s a life-threatening situation.”

All of a sudden our immediate world can collapse on us. We should keep our eyes opened.

Ferocious Storm Punishes Northern California, Depriving 1.2M

SAN FRANCISCO — A fierce Pacific storm howled into Northern California on Friday, bringing a treacherous mix of hurricane-force winds, torrential rains for millions of residents and blizzard conditions for many others.

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Dealing With the Dragon

By PAUL KRUGMANPublished: January 4, 2008On both Wednesday and Thursday, the price of oil briefly hit $100 a barrel. The new record made headlines, as well it should have. But what does it mean, aside from the obvious point that the economy is under extra pressure?

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Black Holes as Accelerators

Guillermo Gonzalez has this to say about this connection:

"The existence of natural accelerators that we can observe is certainly a candidate for the correlation I discuss in my book.
An expert on the giant black hole at the center of our galaxy has stated that there are a number of coincidences that allow us to get good observations of it. This is another case where I am trying to understand the subject a little better to appreciate his findings."

Curiouser, and curiouser.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Oil reaches $100 a barrel for the first time ever

BBC report

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Alan Boss 1

This is Boss's opinion on XO-3b:

"The XO-3b planet is a puzzle for any theory of planet formation.Most of the short-period hot Jupiters do have nearly circular orbits, so when one has a non-circular orbit, it may simply mean that there is another planet or more in the system that is exciting the orbital eccentricity of the inner one. More data will allow that explanation to be confirmed or rejected."

XO-3b

Recently Johns-Krull et al. Reported a strange planet, they write:

"Apparently the assumption, commonly-held prior to 2007, that short-period planets should have circular orbits was incorrect."

This is a massive planet with a period of 3 days in an eccentric orbit (e=.219).

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