Planet 'devoured in secret' by its own sun

Nov 21, 2012
WASP-12.

(Phys.org)—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).

WASP-12 b, originally spotted in 2008, is a 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 Spectrograph aboard the HST, , 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 on the 20th of November.

Explore further: POLARBEAR detects curls in the universe's oldest light

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hubble Finds Star Eating a Planet

May 20, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The hottest known planet in the Milky Way galaxy may also be its shortest-lived world. The doomed planet is being eaten by its parent star, according to observations made by a new instrument ...

The shocking environment of hot Jupiters

Apr 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Jupiter-like worlds around other stars push shock waves ahead of them, according to a team of UK astronomers. Just as the Earth's magnetic "bow-shock" protects us from the high-energy solar ...

Space image: Compact planetary system

Mar 15, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- This artist's concept depicts a planetary system so compact that it's more like Jupiter and its moons than a star and its planets. Astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler mission and ground-based ...

Star blasts planet with X-rays

Sep 13, 2011

A nearby star is pummeling a companion planet with a barrage of X-rays a hundred thousand times more intense than the Earth receives from the Sun.

Recommended for you

New window on the early Universe

2 hours ago

Scientists at the Universities of Bonn and Cardiff see good times approaching for astrophysicists after hatching a new observational strategy to distill detailed information from galaxies at the edge of ...

Chandra's archives come to life

4 hours ago

Every year, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory looks at hundreds of objects throughout space to help expand our understanding of the Universe. Ultimately, these data are stored in the Chandra Data Archive, ...

New robotic telescope revolutionizes the study of stars

4 hours ago

In the last 8 months a fully robotic telescope in Tenerife has been carrying out high-precision observations of the motion of stellar surfaces. The telescope is the first in the SONG telescope network and ...

User comments : 0