First ever discovery of a planet consumed by its own star; Research

Artist's depiction of the planet consumed by its own star (Credit: Ann R. Feild, STScI/NASA)

Astronomers have found that the planet WASP-12 b is slowly being ended by its own star.

This research has been made by researchers from UK’s Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) consortium and published online in the Astrophysical Journal.

WASP-12 b was discovered in 2008 and it is of the size of 1.4 times that of Jupiter. This planet is actually a gas giant planet and is very much close to its parent star that one year of that planet is almost equivalent to one day of our Earth. This closeness of the planet to the star resulting in “boiled off” a superheated gas cloud about three times the radius of the Jupiter, which is feeding the star. However, some of this gas is shrouding around the star by moving out towards the interstellar space.

Astronomers in this study made the use of Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and near-UV light to find out that the planet is being eaten by its own star. Through this technique, they found that one of the element in the gas cloud is magnesium, which is very much efficient in absorbing near-UV light.

Senior Lecturer in Astronomy at The Open University Dr Carole Haswell, who led the study, said that a structure like this had been found around a star for the first time. “It’s as though a veil has been drawn over the planet’s demise”, Haswell said in a statement.

“It’s like the planet is suffering the sad end of being evaporated away … and the star has drawn a privacy veil over the whole sordid affair,” Haswell added.


C. A. Haswell, L. Fossati, T. Ayres, K. France, C. S. Froning, S. Holmes, U. C. Kolb, R. Busuttil, R. A. Street, L. Hebb, A. Collier Cameron, B. Enoch, V. Burwitz, J. Rodriguez, R. G. West, D. Pollacco, P. J. Wheatley, and A. Carter, (2012). Near-ultraviolet Absorption, Chromospheric Activity, and Star-Planet Interactions in the WASP-12 system. Astrophysical Journal, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/760/1/79

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