Doomed exoplanet will be wiped out because it turns into a star | CNN

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Astronomers come across an exoplanet with a bleak future, which moves closer to its host star until it is finally destroyed.

The exoplanet, called Kepler-1658b, was identified in 2019, A decade after the Kepler space telescope discovered it as a candidate planet.

The planet is considered a “hot Jupiter”, or a type of exoplanet similar in size to Jupiter – but extremely hot. Closely orbiting its aging star, Kepler-1658b completes one orbit every 3.85 days.

But the orbit is decaying, causing the planet to gradually approach its star. In the end, this movement It will lead to collision and wiping out the planet. The Astrophysical Journal Letter published a study detailing the findings on Monday.

The lead author of the study, Shreyas Visapragada, a fellow at 51 Pegasi B.V at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard and Smithsonian, in a statement.

“The theory predicts that evolving stars are very efficient at sapping energy from the orbits of their planets, and now we can test these theories through observations.”

After years of notes with Both space and ground-based telescopes, the researchers calculated that the planet’s orbit is decreasing at a rate of 131 milliseconds per year. Telescopes watched for dips in the star’s brightness as the planet passed in front of it. The periods between these dips, called transits, have decreased steadily as the orbit decays.

Tidal interactions, or the gravitational relationship between Kepler-1658b and its star, are responsible for the planet’s internal pull. Astronomers are still learning about gravitational interactions between orbiting bodies, such as Earth and the Moon, but this planetary system could shed light on such dynamics.

The new research also helped researchers explain why Kepler-1658b appears hotter and brighter than expected. The same gravitational attraction between a planet and its star may cause additional energy to be released from the planet.

“What we realized during this study is that the planet could be shining because it is much hotter than previously expected, which could happen if the same effects that degrade the planet’s orbit cause its temperature to rise as well,” Visapragada said in an email. . “I am excited to study this possibility further: Are we witnessing the last breath of a condemned planet?”

It’s not unlike Jupiter’s moon Io, the most volcanic place in our solar system. Jupiter’s powerful gravitational influence melts the interior of Io, causing lava to erupt from hundreds of volcanoes on this moon’s surface. The Juno mission will conduct multiple flybys of Io in the next year and a half to learn more about this volatile relationship.

Meanwhile, the ancient star that orbits Kepler-1658b is expanding and reentering Its sub-stage before becoming a red giant, a dying star in the last stages of its life. The results could potentially preview the fate of planets in our solar system that may one day find themselves very close to the sun.

“In five billion years or so, the Sun will evolve into a red giant star,” Visapragada said. “It seems certain that Mercury and Venus will be swallowed up during this process, but what happens to Earth is less clear.”

Researchers believe that more exoplanets are at risk of dying in the fiery light of their host stars, and their observations may be too close using TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which studies the light of nearby stars.

“The Kepler-1658 system can serve as a celestial laboratory in this way for years to come,” Visapragada said, “and with any luck, there will be more such laboratories soon.”

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