Planet eating star discovered

The
Hubble Space Telescope has captured evidence of a Sun-like star
“eating” a nearby planet.

Astronomers
knew that stars were capable of swallowing planets in orbit around them, but
this is the first time the event has been “seen” so clearly.

Although
the planet was too far away for Hubble to photograph, scientists have created
an image of it, based on analysis of the telescope’s data.

The
discovery was published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The
researchers say the planet, which is called Wasp-12b, may only have another 10
million years left before it is completely devoured.

It
is so close to its star that it completes an orbit in 1.1 Earth days and is superheated
to more than 1,500C.

Because
of this proximity, the planet’s atmosphere has ballooned to nearly three times
the radius of Jupiter and is spilling material on to the star.

Carole
Haswell from the UK’s Open University led the research team. She explained:
“We see a huge cloud of material around the planet which is escaping and
will be captured by the star.”

Hubble’s
detection of the cloud enabled scientists to draw conclusions about how it was
generated.

Dr
Haswell said: “We have identified chemical elements never before seen on
planets outside our own Solar System.”

Wasp-12
is a dwarf star located approximately 600 light-years away in the constellation
Auriga.

The
exoplanet was first discovered by the UK’s Wide Area Search for Planets (Wasp)
in 2008.

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