Researchers have spotted a very young “hot Jupiter” exoplanet orbiting unsafely close to its host star. The “baby planet” is probably going to be ripped into pieces by the star’s forces.
According to a paper that has been submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal, this planet, which orbits its parent star every 11 hours, is locked in a slow “death spiral” that will eventually tear it to shreds.
“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,” lead author Christopher Johns-Krull from the Rice University in Texas, according to whom there is “compelling evidence” that this planet exists, said in a statement released Thursday.
“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,” he added. “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.”
The researchers believe that the planet — named PTFO8-8695 b — is slowly losing its outer layers, which are being mercilessly ripped off by the gravity of the parent star. The planet is almost twice the mass of Jupiter but is only 3 to 4 percent the size of the star it orbits.