Planet ‘devoured in secret’ by its own sun


Share post:

A planet roughly 1.4 times the size of Jupiter 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).

Planet ‘devoured in secret’ by its own sun
WASP-12b. [Credit: NASA/STScI/Ann R. Feild]

WASP-12 b, originally spotted in 2008, is a gas giant planet orbiting extremely close to its parent star. 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.”

Source: Open University [November 20, 2012]



Related articles

Oldest fossil tropicbird found in New Zealand

Researchers from Canterbury Museum and Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, have discovered near Waipara/North Canterbury (on New Zealand’s...

Penn Museum launches Louis Shotridge Digital Archive

For the first time, scholars, students, and community leaders interested in learning more about Southeastern Alaskan Native history...

NY court rules gold tablet belongs to Berlin museum

In a ruling rejecting any claims to the “spoils of war,” New York’s highest court concluded Thursday that...

Tomb dating back to 1100 B.C. found in Egypt

Archeologists have found a tomb dating back to around 1100 B.C. south of Cairo, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry said...

Seventeenth century plague victims discovered in Poland

More than one hundred victims of an epidemic that swept through Poland in the seventeenth century have been...

Treasure hunters in Sri Lanka prefer Buddha statues

Investigations have revealed valuable Buddha statues are mostly vandalised by treasure hunters in pursuit of artefacts with archaeological...

Enceladus provides a new kind of plasma laboratory

Recent findings from NASA's Cassini mission reveal that Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus provides a special laboratory for watching...

Ancient Argilos, a multilingual Greek colony in the northwestern coast of the Aegean

What kind of residential, political and commercial structures did the Greek colonies on the northwestern coast of the...