Exoplanets: New Discovery of Seasons Outside Our Solar System

March 6, 2022. By Ashley Chung '24

The discovery of a new exoplanet helped scientists gain insight into how seasons may work on planets outside our solar system. This article includes a description of what exoplanets are and how they are discovered. We'll also examine the exoplanet, XO-3b.

Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star outside of our solar system. They orbit a star other than the sun. The discovery of exoplanets helps give insights to scientists in our solar system on how the exoplanets affect the sun they orbit. This can be translated into our solar system, helping scientists better understand the effects our planets have on the sun. Currently, there are five methods of discovering exoplanets: direct imaging, radial velocity, transits, microlensing, and transit timing variations. The most common method is discovery transits;transits can be viewed when a planet passes between a planet and its observer. Scientists are able to tell by the exoplanet slightly dimming the star’s light it orbits. Through the dip in light curves that are received through graphing, they are able to tell when an exoplanet passes in front of a star. Transits can also determine some characteristics of the exoplanet such as how long the exoplanet takes to orbit and its size.

There has recently been the discovery of a hot Jupiter exoplanet. When referring to hot Jupiter, is it not the planet in our solar system but rather a class of exoplanets known as hot Jupiter's. A hot Jupiter exoplanet can be described as a big, gaseous world like Jupiter in our solar system. Scientists are curious about the formation of these hot Jupiter exoplanets and how they may help them gain insight into seasons on an exoplanet. Through studies, XO-3b was found to have an eccentric orbit suggesting that it had migrated recently to its parent star. Its eccentric orbit would eventually morph into a circular orbit. This abnormal pattern of the orbit has led to seasonal variations which are much stronger than the ones here on Earth. It was found that XO-3b receives three times as much energy when facing the star as when it is not. It was also found that the planet is puffier, indicating that the interior of XO-3b is energetic and that the planet may produce its own heat through the process of tidal heating without the reliance on the star. The planet's eccentric orbit takes the planet closer and farther away from its sun drastically changing its seasons. The planet reportedly has three-day winters and one day longer summers. The seasons change every three days due to the positioning of XO-3b and the shape of its orbit. The discovery of this specific exoplanet, XO-3b, has helped scientists gain insight into seasons in planets outside our solar system and how they differentiate from our solar system.


Winfrey, Tiffany. “NASA Telescope Finds Exoplanet That Changes Seasons in Just 3 Days.” Science Times, 17 Jan. 2022, https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/35613/20220117/nasa-telescope-finds-exoplanet-that-changes-seasons-to-in-just-3-days.htm.

University, McGill. “Hot Jupiter Exoplanet Provides New Insights Into Seasons on a Planet Outside Our Solar System.” SciTechDaily, 30 Jan. 2022, https://scitechdaily.com/hot-jupiter-exoplanet-provides-new-insights-into-seasons-on-a-planet-outside-our-solar-system/