1st Planet Ever Observed Being Devoured by Its Star System
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November 21, 2012

1st Planet Ever Observed Being Devoured by Its Star System

 

 

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A planet, WASP-12 b, a gas giant originally spotted in 2008,is roughly 1.4 times the size of Jupiter and is being consumed by its own star behind a shroud thanks to a magnesium veil absorbing all of certain light wavelengths, according to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The distance between the star and planet is so small that the planet completes an orbit of its star in just over one Earth day. This proximity has "boiled off" a superheated gas cloud roughly three times the radius of Jupiter which feeds the star. However, some of this gas is moving out towards interstellar space, creating a shroud around the star.

The gas shroud is thin, and barely noticeable in optical light, but the new observations were made with HST using near-UV light. The team discovered that one element in the cloud is magnesium, which is extremely efficient at absorbing near-UV light. These wavelengths are extremely sensitive to the presence of tenuous gas, and in them the star can appear completely invisible.

The study was made by researchers from the UK's Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) consortium, who originally found the planet in 2008, as well experts on the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph aboard the HST, stellar activity, and interstellar absorption from the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the University of Colorado.

Senior Lecturer in Astronomy at The Open University Dr Carole Haswell, who led the study, said that a structure like this had never before been observed around a star, adding: "It's as though a veil has been drawn over the planet's demise."

The paper, Near-UV Absorption, Chromospheric Activity, and Star-Planet Interactions in the WASP-12 system Haswell et al 2012, was published in The Astrophysical Journal on the 20th of November.

The Daily Galaxy via The Open University

Comments

I seem to remember a previous report of the discovered planets in which a planet was having its atmosphere blasted off by the star's solar wind. The report claimed it was seeing the event as it was happening but I wondered since the star's action was a repetition how previous blasts did not render the planet atmosphereless; I thought that the 'gas' identified as being blown off the planet was actually the star's wind and the planet's atmo long gone.

Its the inherent nature of our universe to create an imbalance in the existing system. This planet must have been light years away until it finally reached its inevitable end.


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