A star is brutally attacking its close-orbiting planet with a barrage of X-rays a hundred thousand times stronger than what Earth receives from the sun, a new study has found.
Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope suggests that the high-energy radiation is stripping the planet off about 5 million tons of matter every second, giving insight into the difficult survival path for some planets.
The study was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
The planet, known as CoRoT-2b, is located about 880 light-years from Earth and was first discovered in 2007. The gas giant has a mass that is three times that of Jupiter and 1,000 times that of Earth. It orbits the star in question - known as CoRoT-2a - at a distance only about 3 percent of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, causing some exotic effects not seen in our solar system.
This planet is being absolutely fried by its star. What may be even stranger is that this planet may be affecting the behavior of the star that is blasting it, Sebastian Schroeter, a researcher at the University of Hamburg in Germany and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
The CoRoT-2 system is estimated to be between about 100 million and 300 million years old. Observations show that CoRoT-2a is fully formed mature star, but yet the star's actions are extremely youthful, leading to the extreme activity.
Stefan Czesla, another co-author from the University of Hamburg, said the planet's proximity to the star may be speeding up the star's rotation, keeping its magnetic fields active. The star, which is between 100 million and 300 million years old, would likely be less volatile if not for nearness of CoRoT-2b.
Support for this idea comes from observations of a likely companion star that orbits CoRoT-2a at a distance thousand times greater than the separation between the Earth and sun. This star is not detected in X-rays, perhaps because it does not have a close-in planet like CoRoT-2b to cause it to stay active, researchers said.
Some researchers say that the destruction to the planet is actually useful because the planet is simply too big. It is believed to be a form of self-correction by some researchers that will eventually die down with time, io9.com reported.
We're not exactly sure of all the effects this type of heavy X-ray storm would have on a planet, but it could be responsible for the bloating we see in CoRoT-2b, said Schroeter. We are just beginning to learn about what happens to exoplanets in these extreme environments.