Suicidal planet seems on death spiral into star
2009 08 28

By Seth Borenstein | USAToday.com


Astronomers have found what appears to be a gigantic suicidal planet.
The odd, fiery planet is so close to its star and so large that it is triggering tremendous plasma tides on the star. Those powerful tides are in turn warping the planet's zippy less-than-a-day orbit around its star.

The result: an ever-closer tango of death, with the planet eventually spiraling into the star.

It is a slow death. The planet WASP-18b has maybe a million years to live, said planet discoverer Coel Hellier, a professor of astrophysics at Keele University in England. Hellier's report on the suicidal planet is in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

"It's causing its own destruction by creating these tides," Hellier said.

The star is called WASP-18 and the planet is WASP-18b because of the Wide Angle Search for Planets team that found them.

The planet circles a star that is in the constellation Phoenix and is about 325 light-years away from Earth, which means it is in Earth's galactic neighborhood. A light-year is about 5.8 trillion miles.

The planet is 1.9 million miles (3 million kilometers) from its star, 1/50th of the distance between Earth and its star, the sun. And because of that the temperature is about 3,800 degrees (2,100 Celsius).

Its size — 10 times bigger than Jupiter — and its proximity to its star make it likely to die, Hellier said.

Think of how the distant moon pulls Earth's oceans to form twice-daily tides. The effect the odd planet has on its star is thousands of times stronger, Hellier said. The star's tidal bulge of plasma may extend hundreds of miles, he said.

Like most planets outside Earth's solar system, this planet was not seen directly by a telescope. Astronomers found it by seeing dips in light from the star every time the planet came between the star and Earth.

So far astronomers have found more than 370 planets outside the solar system. This one is "yet another weird one in the exoplanet menagerie," said planet specialist Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

It is so unusual to find a suicidal planet that University of Maryland astronomer Douglas Hamilton questioned whether there was another explanation. While it is likely that this is a suicidal planet, Hamilton said it also is possible that some basic physics calculations that all astronomers rely on could be dead wrong.

The answer will become apparent in less than a decade if the planet seems to be further in a death spiral, he said.

Article from: USAToday.com
Image credit: CARREAU/ESA/Nature



Related Articles
Planet orbits the wrong way
Scientists uncover lost Venetian city
Planet twice as big as Earth discovered
Quest to find life beyond our planet gets technological boosts
Hello from Earth: Send a Message to a Nearby Planet
NASA uses probes to hunt for ancient planet that may prove Earth moon origins
Nasa's planet hunter seeks new earths
Mysterious changes seen on distant dwarf planet
First-ever images taken of extrasolar planets


Latest News from our Front Page

The War Against Whites Is Massively Incentivized
2014 08 28
The war on Whites is getting increasingly obvious, to the point that a very mainstream source, Congressman Mo Brooks, stated it and then refused to back down. This war is being carried on with a number of very potent weapons. At TOO we have stressed the moral onslaught which has inculcated guilt among legions of Whites for actions that have occurred ...
Study Offers Clues to Arctic Mystery: Paleo-Eskimos’ Abrupt Extinction
2014 08 28
Seven hundred years ago, the Dorset people disappeared from the Arctic. The last of the Paleo-Eskimos, the Dorset culture had dominated eastern Canada and Greenland for centuries, hunting seal and walrus through holes in the ice and practicing shamanistic rituals with ornate carvings and masks. Then, they promptly ceased to exist. Modern archaeologists have scoured troves of Arctic artifacts, searching for ...
Lois Lerner’s IRS Blackberry Destroyed After Federal Probe
2014 08 28
The IRS destroyed former Lois Lerner’s BlackBerry after Congress started probing whether the IRS was targeting conservative groups. Lerner was director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS. A sworn declaration of Thomas Kane, a senior IRS lawyer, reveals that in June 2012, the IT department of the IRS wiped any sensitive or proprietary information from the BlackBerry in ...
White Marine Beaten by Black Mob in Michael Brown ‘Revenge’ Attack
2014 08 28
Police refuse to treat incident as a hate crime A white Marine was left in an induced coma after a group of black men brutally beat him as part of a revenge attack in response to the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident began at West Point Waffle House in Mississippi on Saturday morning at around 1am. With ...
Study: Exposure to Endocrine disrupting Chemicals Can Affect Future Generations
2014 08 28
Scientists have known that toxic effects of substances known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), found in both natural and human-made materials, can pass from one generation to the next. New research shows that females with an ancestral exposure to EDC may show especially adverse reactions to stress. According to a new study by researchers from The University of Texas at Austin ...
More News »