WASP-69b is losing mass equivalent to shedding one Earth every billion years

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UNITED STATES, Jan 10, (Agencies): Scientists have determined that WASP-69b is losing mass at a rate equivalent to shedding one Earth every billion years, or approximately 200,000 tons per second. This phenomenon, resembling a common occurrence in outer space, resolves the enigmatic gap in exoplanet sizes.

Situated 160 light years away, this colossal planet now exhibits comet-like features, sporting a tail stretching a massive 350,000 miles into space. The cause of this transformation lies in the proximity of the planet to its host star, resulting in the planet’s atmosphere boiling.

With the dimensions comparable to Jupiter, the planet is visibly diminishing in real-time. Astronomers report that it sheds the equivalent of one Earth every billion years, translating to around 200,000 tonnes per second; the intense boiling leads to the atmosphere shedding, giving rise to the distinctive comet-like tail.

Known as WASP-69b, this planet’s extreme heat exposure is evident as it completes one orbit around its host star in less than four days. The compact orbit exposes the planet to the intense radiation of the host star, causing the helium gas in its atmosphere to vaporize.

Lead researcher Dakotah Tyler, humorously remarked during a press conference at the American Astronomical Society, “This is an extreme environment. I would suggest that you do not consider retiring on this planet.”

While this scenario may seem extraordinary to Earth dwellers, scientists propose that mass shedding by planets might be more prevalent than previously thought. This discovery potentially solves the perplexing gap in exoplanet sizes.

The comet-like tail, extending an impressive 350,000 miles, stands as one of the most captivating revelations from outer space. WASP-69b sheds helium, forming a tail seven times the planet’s width, influenced by the host star’s charged particles and magnetic fields.

Yet, the blame for the planet’s shrinkage doesn’t solely rest on the hot host star. Scientists posit that radiation from the planet’s core might also contribute by pushing the atmosphere away.

NASA has cataloged over 5,000 alien worlds, categorized into two groups: super-Earths and sub-Neptunes. WASP-69b, being more massive than a sub-Neptune, displays boiling behavior similar to super-Earths. This significant size allows scientists ample time to observe and study its unique characteristics.

Erik Petigura, a study co-author and UCLA professor of Physics and Astronomy, expressed, “The WASP-69b system is a gem because we have a rare opportunity to study atmospheric mass-loss in real-time and understand the critical physics that shape thousands of other planets.”

The researchers anticipate that studying WASP-69b and its comet-like tail will provide valuable insights into the evolving dynamics between planets and their host stars in space.

This news has been read 964 times!

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