Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Its the End of the World as WASP-12B Knows It

A star is slowly snuffing the life out of an alien planet. But in a macabre twist, material stripped out of the dying world's atmosphere has become a death shroud enveloping the gas giant and its star.

First discovered in 2008, WASP-12b is a so-called hot Jupiter—a gas giant planet orbiting extremely close to its parent star.

Located 1,100 light-years away, WASP-12b hugs its star so tightly that a year on the planet lasts just over one Earth day. The two objects are so close that scientists think that the gas that makes up most of the doomed planet is being boiled off and blown into space by the intense heat from its star.

"At the current best guess ... the planet will lose most of its mass in about one billion years," said astrophysicist Carole Haswell of The Open University in the United Kingdom. A relative blink of an eye when compared to Earth's projected 9-billion-year life span.

Perhaps we ought to call this a 'hot smoke ring.'

They ought to be able to get some interesting results about the planet's atmosphere.

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