The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has revealed a gas giant planet being devoured by its parent star behind a magnesium-rich cloud that is obscuring certain wavelengths of light.
According to a new study by astronomers from various projects, including the UK’s Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP), such a structure has never been seen around a star before.
“It’s as though a veil has been drawn over the planet’s demise,” said study lead author Carole Haswell at The Open University in a press release.
Known as WASP-12 b, the planet was discovered in 2008, and is approximately 1.4 times the size of Jupiter.
This gassy world is circling its host star so closely that it completes an orbit just over every 24 hours. Due to their proximity, a superheated cloud of gas has arisen that is about three times the radius of Jupiter, and that feeds the star.
However, some of the gas is straying into interstellar space, producing a thin veil around the star that the HST detected in near-ultra-violet light.
One of its elements is magnesium, which absorbs these wavelengths of light, making the star seem to be totally invisible.
The findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 20.
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