The HBO show Game of Thrones (based on the Song of Ice and Fire book series) takes place in a fictional world where magic and dragons make life a little more interesting for the people who live there. Set largely on the continent of Westeros, one notable characteristic of this world is it's seasonal cycle: winter and summer are of unpredictable duration. People there never know if a season will last for a few months or ten years.
Thankfully, here on Earth, the seasons run on a regular schedule. But astronomers are now finding that there may be planets in our universe where the seasonal cycles are more like that of Westeros. There are planets with highly eccentric orbits that could experience long, hard winters, and very brief summers; there are planets that orbit two (or more) stars, which may experience highly chaotic temperature fluctuations.
Today on the podcast I talk to two astrophysicists who are studying some of these odd planetary orbits. Veselin Kostov, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, studies circumbinary planets, but he is also a co-author on a recent paper that (very lightly) explores some hypothesis for how Westeros gets its seasons. Stephen Kane is an astrophysicist at the NASA Expolanet Science Institute. Kane coauthored a paper late last year (and on the arxiv) which examined how the surface temperature would fluctuate on a planet orbiting two stars.
Listen to the podcast to hear Kostov's hypothesis for how Westeros's seasons might arise, and Kane's counter theory.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Posted by Agent Utah at 7/24/2013 11:31:00 AM