Recently, astronomers confirmed the existence of an exoplanet orbiting in the dusty environs around the star Fomalhaut. The planet, dubbed Fomalhaut b, is believed to be a gas giant three times larger than Jupiter, and it exhibits one of the strangest orbital paths of any planet so far discovered.
Many have dubbed Fomalhaut b the 'zombie planet'. It was the first exoplanet ever discovered, but with only two points of data to its credit, many astronomers were skeptical of its existence. Until recently, most astronomers figured the object was nothing more than a dust cloud. Now that its existence has been confirmed, Fomalhaut b has taken on a new life in academic circle, especially given its wildly eccentric orbit.
Fomalhuat b approaches within 4.6 billion miles of Fomalhaut at its closest approach, before swinging away toward the furthest point of its orbit, approximately 27 billion miles from its star. During this highly eccentric orbit, Fomalhaut b plunges through the massive belt of dust and debris surrounding the star for up to 20 billion miles. It takes the planet 2000 years to complete one orbit. Astronomers have yet to explain why Fomalhaut b has such a strange orbital path. Some postulate that Fomalhaut b might share a the system with another similar sized object that could have knocked it into the wild orbit visible today during an ancient gravitational interaction.