Think the Seasons are Crazy here? Check out Kepler-432b!

It’s been cold lately.  The temperature has fallen somewhere between Hoth and Pluto, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.  It seems we complain about the weather no matter the season.  It’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too bright, too dark.  We do have a lot of variation in the seasons, but compared to some other planets, Earth is pretty mild in its climate.

Credit: Graphic Dr. Sabine Reffert

One such case is the recently discovered Kepler 432b.  A massive planet six times heavier than Jupiter with a comparable size, it orbits closer to its parent star than Mercury does to the Sun, giving it a ‘year’ that is 52 Earth days long.  The unique quality this planet possesses is a huge distance variation in its orbit, bringing it very close to it’s parent star at times.

When the planet is furthest from the expanding red giant star, during it’s ‘Winter’ season, it has a surface temperature of 500 degrees Celsius, which is not much of a winter.  Once it reaches its ‘Summer’ season at the other end of its orbit, the surface temperature rises to a stifling 1000 degrees Celsius.  This 500 degree temperature difference would be like Earth having a -250 degree Winter, before moving to a +250 degree Summer.  Spring and Autumn would be comfortable for a few days, but the rest of the year would be unbearable.

However, planets with such extreme orbits tend to not last very long, and Kepler 432b is slowly being pulled in toward its red giant host star, and will be swallowed up in the next 200 Million Years.  The reason we don’t find many planets like this is that they just don’t last very long, astronomically speaking.

It’s important to note that seasons on Earth are due to the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis, and the temperature variations caused by the Earth’s changing distance from the Sun are minimal.

Suddenly, Winter in Canada doesn’t seem so bad.

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