Our planet is not under attack by aliens, but astronomers have found a star that is bombarding its planet with a barrage of X-rays that are almost 100,000 times stronger than what Earth receives from the sun.
For now the planet, dubbed CoRoT-2b, has a mass about three times Jupiter's, but data gathered by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope suggest that its survival is in doubt as it is losing about 5 million tons of material every second due to the high-energy radiation.
The study was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
This planet is being absolutely fried by its star, said Sebastian Schroeter, an ESO astronomer of the University of Hamburg in Germany. What may be even stranger is that this planet may be affecting the behavior of the star that is blasting it.
With an extremely active star orbiting the planet in very close proximity, CoRoT-2 is one of the most unusual planetary systems yet discovered.
The star, dubbed CoRot-2a, is located about 880 light-years from Earth and its estimated age is between 100 million and 300 million years,, which makes it fully formed and mature. Although old, the star is still very active and is capable of producing very high X-ray emission levels like younger stellar bodies.
Destruction of the planet may be useful, as some scientists pointed out that the size of CoRoT-2b is 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.