Feeds

Hubble eyes sun-roasted exoplanet

Gas giant's atmosphere blown into comet-like tail

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) have determined that gas giant HD 209458b is having a really bad hair day, orbiting so close to its star that its atmosphere is being stripped away by cosmic winds and cast into space in a "comet-like tail".

Artist's impression of HD 209458b. Pic: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

HD 209458b - lying some 153 light-years from earth - has attracted much attention from astronomers because it was one of the first exoplanets caught transiting its sun. It tips the scales at slightly less than Jupiter, but is "100 times closer" to its stellar captor, and nips around the star in just three-and-a-half days.

Jeffrey Linsky of the University of Colorado used COS to analyse just how HD 209458b's uncomfortably close proximity to its sun affected its atmosphere.

NASA explains: "COS detected the heavy elements carbon and silicon in the planet's super-hot, 2,000-degree-Fahrenheit atmosphere. This detection revealed the parent star is heating the entire atmosphere, dredging up the heavier elements and allowing them to escape the planet."

For those of you who like your superheated atmospheres in new money, that's a tad over 1000°C – enough to blast off gas from the planet at 22,000 mph (35,400 km/h).

COS revealed the comet tail effect of the escaping gas during transition – previously suggested but not confirmed in 2003 by Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph – thanks to its "unique combination of very high ultraviolet sensitivity and good spectral resolution".

It's not all bad news for "roasted" giant HD 209458b, though. Linsky noted: "It will take about a trillion years for the planet to evaporate."

NASA has more on the baked gas giant here, while the results of the Hubble observations appear in the 10 July issue of The Astrophysical Journal. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9000 beer tokens - and counting
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.