The Newly Discovered Planet That Orbits Backwards!

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | August 24, 2009 10:15 pm

Cool news from space I’ve been meaning to post

WASP-17, a newly discovered planet about 1,000 light-years away, orbits in the reverse direction as the star it revolves around! This is BIG news in science because every other world we’ve observed does the opposite. Most likely, a near collision with another planet early on led to its strange orbit. The discovery was made by graduate students David Anderson at Keele University and Amaury Triaud of the Geneva Observatory with the UK’s Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) project. WASP-17 is also estimated to be two times the size–but half the mass–of Jupiter meaning this becomes the largest known planet in the universe.


An artist’s impression of a transiting exoplanet.  Credit:NASA/Hubble
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Media and Science, Space

Comments (6)

  1. Rules For

    1000 light years seems really far away. Does anybody here know the most distant exoplanet detected?

  2. Roadtripper

    For what it’s worth, wikipedia has a list of exo-planets. Here’s the most distant:

    Compared to this, 1000 light years doesn’t seem so far.


  3. It is the unpredictability of nature that makes life exciting.

  4. Rules For

    Wow, 22,000 light years – that’s incredibly far! And being in Sagittarius must mean it’s only a few thousand light years from the center of the galaxy. Thanks for the link!





    – s T a c y




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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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