A distant star is destroying a massive planet — here’s why it matters

A distant star is destroying a massive planet — here’s why it matters

A "hot Jupiter" is being torn apart because it is flying way too close to its host star.

As we reported recently, scientists are witnessing a “hot Jupiter” exoplanet called PTF08-8695 getting torn apart by the gravity of its host star — and there’s a reason it’s important to researchers here on Earth.

The planet is in a slow death spiral, spinning way too close to the star after eons of slow migration toward it. Now, the exoplanet orbits the star once every 11 hours — astonishingly close, considering it takes us 365 days to orbit ours, according to a Rice University statement.

The exoplanet is about 1,100 light years from us and situated int he Orion constellation. It was first identified in 2012.

The discovery is important to us because it sheds tremendous light on how planets formed and how they behave as they gravitate to the host star. It helps us better understand gravity as well as the formation of our own solar system, which undoubtedly look very different billions of years ago.

Discoveries of these exoplanets could further our understanding of the universe itself.

“A handful of known planets are in similarly small orbits, but because this star is only 2 million years old this is one of the most extreme examples,” said Rice University astronomer Christopher Johns-Krull, lead author of the study. “We don’t yet have absolute proof this is a planet because we don’t yet have a firm measure of the planet’s mass, but our observations go a long way toward verifying this really is a planet. We compared our evidence against every other scenario we could imagine, and the weight of the evidence suggests this is one of the youngest planets yet observed.”

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