Hubble Telescope Spots a Star Eating a Planet

Hubble spots a planet-eating star
Artist's concept of the exoplanet WASP-12b.   (NASA/ESA/G. Bacon)

A new instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope has captured evidence of a Sun-like star "eating" a nearby planet. The planet, called Wasp-12b, may only have another 10 million years left before it is devoured, the BBC reports. So close to its star that it completes an orbit in 1.1 Earth days, it is superheated to more than 1,500C—the highest temperature of any known planet in the Milky Way—and distended to a football shape by powerful tidal forces, NASA adds. Because of this proximity, the planet's atmosphere has ballooned to nearly three times the radius of Jupiter and is spilling material on to the star.

"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," says the team leader at the Open University in Great Britain, which published the discovery in the the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The planet was too far away for Hubble to photograph; scientists used the telescope's data to create a hypothetical image of it. (More NASA stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.