The solar system’s configuration is learned in grade school, and forever committed to memory with the help of foam balls, deconstructed coat hangers and paint. It’s a fairly straightforward arrangement: the sun revolves at the center as eight planets — along with dwarf planet Pluto — orbit within the same plane, and in the same direction as the sun’s rotation.
As it turns out, planets around far-off stars do not always obey these rules, as Josh Winn has found. Winn, who is the Class of 1942 Career Development Associate Professor of Physics at MIT, searches for exoplanets — planets outside the solar system that revolve around far-off stars. In the last decade, astronomers have identified hundreds of exoplanetary systems in the Milky Way. Winn has found that many of these systems display very different properties from our own, with planets circling at odd angles, out of alignment with their stars’ rotation.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/03/hunt-exoplanets-may-yield-habitable-planets