Suicidal planet seems on death spiral into star
2009-08-28 0:00

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

Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female
2015-04-25 4:52
Shieldmaidens are not a myth! A recent archaeological discovery has shattered the stereotype of exclusively male Viking warriors sailing out to war while their long-suffering wives wait at home with baby Vikings. (We knew it! We always knew it.) Plus, some other findings are challenging that whole “rape and pillage” thing, too. Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided ...
Off Your Knees, Germany! Ernst Zundel 1983 - 2003
2015-04-25 1:15
For more information on the holocaust, how the war was forced upon Germany, and the REAL victims of the second world war see: http://gblt.webs.com/Real_Holocaust.htm http://web.archive.org/web/20130806074314/http://www.666blacksun.org/ http://www.zundelsite.org/
IRS Drops Attack For Six Years – No Evidence of Jurisdiction
2015-04-24 20:29
A big congrats to a friend I’ve been working with for several years, he stood up to the predators commonly called the “IRS” and they dropped their attack. Thanks also for providing me with the proof below. The criminals called the “IRS” initiated an attack claiming my friend was required to file six tax returns, or explain how he made ...
Into Eternity - Finland's 100,000 Year Massive Underground Spent Nuclear Fuel Program
2015-04-24 20:49
Into Eternity is a documentary about a deep geological repository for nuclear waste. The concept of long-term underground storage for radioactive waste has been explored since the 1950s. The inner part of the Russian doll-like storage canisters is to be composed of copper. Hence in the case of Onkalo it is tightly linked to experiments on copper corrosion in running ...
SPLC Accuses Oath Keepers of Inciting “Armed Confrontation” Over Sugar Pine Mine
2015-04-24 20:22
The Southern Poverty Law Center has accused Oath Keepers of inciting an armed confrontation with BLM authorities over the Sugar Pine Mine dispute in Oregon, despite the fact that the organization has explicitly stated that it is not promoting armed confrontation with the feds. In an article provocatively posted on the organization’s ‘Hatewatch’ section entitled Oath Keepers Descend Upon Oregon with ...
More News »