Planet Devoured By Its Own Star In Secret
November 20, 2012

Planet Is Secretly Being Devoured By Its Own Star

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

New observations by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have found a planet that is secretly being consumed by its own star.

The gas giant planet is about 1.4 times the size of Jupiter and is orbiting extremely close to its parent star, completing a full orbit in just over one Earth day.

Due to the close distance of orbit, a gas cloud has been "boiled off," and some of it is moving out towards interstellar space to create a shroud around the star.

The gas shroud is barely noticeable in optical light, but new observations show that one element in the cloud is magnesium. In order to see the element, astronomers had to make observations using near-UV light. These wavelengths are extremely sensitive to the presence of tenuous gas.

“It's as though a veil has been drawn over the planet's demise," Dr Carole Haswell, who led the study, said in a press release.

Carole, Senior Lecturer in Astronomy at The Open University, said that a structure like this had never before been seen around a star.

WASP-12, the gas giant planet, was originally spotted by researchers from the UK´s Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) consortium. This team helped with the latest research, along with experts on the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph aboard the HST, and astronomers from the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the University of Colorado.

The researchers will be publishing their paper "Near-UV Absorption, Chromospheric Activity, and Star-Planet Interactions" in The Astrophysical Journal on November 20th.