NASA Hubble spots star devouring universe's hottest planet

NASA Hubble Space Telescope watches planet melt into star gravity

NASA hubble, WASP-23b
It must be something like eating the universe's largest and hottest Ghost Pepper. An  instrument on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has observed a planet that is slowly being eaten by its parent star. 

The doomed Jupiter-sized planet has moved so close to its sun-like parent star that it is spilling its atmosphere onto the star. This happens because the planet gets so hot that its atmosphere expands to the point where the star's gravity pulls it in. The planet will likely be completely devoured in 10 million years, according to a Space Telescope Science Institute release. 

NASA telescopes watch cosmic violence, mysteries unravel 

The planet, called WASP-12b, is the hottest known world ever discovered, with an atmosphere roiling at 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit, the institute stated.  The planet is 40% more massive than Jupiter and completes an orbit every 1.1 days. 

"We see a huge cloud of material around the planet, which is escaping and will be captured by the star. We have identified chemical elements never before seen on planets outside our own solar system," stated Carole Haswell of The Open University in Great Britain. Haswell and her science team's results were published in the May 10, 2010 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters

The star-eating-planet is Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph second major observation brought to light in the past two weeks. 

The Hubble's equipment spotted a huge star -- 90 times more massive than the Sun -- blasting across space at over than 250,000 miles an hour.

The runaway star is the most extreme case of a very massive star that has been kicked out of its home by a group of even heftier siblings, according to the Space Telescope Science Institute. Runaway stars can be made by running into one or two heavier siblings in a massive, dense cluster and get booted out through what scientists called a stellar game of pinball. Or, a star may get a 'kick' from a supernova explosion in a binary system, with the more massive star exploding first, scientists stated. 

NASA installed the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph last May when it revamped Hubble. According to NASA, the device is designed to study the large-scale structure of the universe and how galaxies, stars and planets formed and evolved. It will help determine how elements needed for life such as carbon and iron first formed and how their abundances have increased over the lifetime of the universe. 

As a spectrograph, COS doesn't capture the majestic visual images that Hubble is known for, but rather it will breaks up light into its individual components. Any object that absorbs or emits light can be studied with a spectrograph to determine its temperature, density, chemical composition and velocity, NASA stated. 

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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