Star Rips Exoplanet to Shreds with X-Rays
Some relationships are doomed from the beginning, and the same can be said of some planetary systems.
Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have identified a star and its planet that are locked in a mutually volatile relationship.
WATCH VIDEO: What does it take to find a planet 63 light-years from Earth?
Located 880 light-years away, the star CoRoT-2a is ruthlessly pummeling a closely-orbiting planet with powerful X-rays, blasting an estimated 5 million tons of material off of it every second! The planet, dubbed CoRoT-2b, orbits its star at a distance of about 3 percent the distance between the Earth and the sun — only around 2.8 million miles — and receives a hundred thousand times the X-ray radiation that Earth receives.
In turn, the planet’s close proximity may be responsible for keeping up the high rotation rate of its star, increasing its magnetic activity and thus its X-ray output. Talk about negative reinforcement!
A nearby companion star to CoRoT-2a does not exhibit this level of X-ray activity, possibly due to a lack of a similar closely orbiting planet.
The image above is an artist’s illustration of the system, showing a very magnetically active star blowing clouds of material off a hapless planet.
Seen right, is an image made of X-ray data from Chandra and optical and infrared data from the Panchromatic Robotic Optical Monitoring and Polarimetry Telescopes (PROMPT) and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), showing the star CoRoT-2a in the center. Its purple glow indicates it as an X-ray source.
The nearby star is the dimmer object just to the bottom right of CoRot-2a. (The planet itself cannot be seen in this image.)
Discoveries like this are a testament to the many types of extreme and exotic conditions that exoplanets may exist in. One can’t help but realize what a cozy spot our own planet has, considering the possible alternatives!
Want more dirt on the CoRoT-2a couple? Read more about their rather abusive relationship on the Chandra site here.
CoRoT-2b, was discovered by the French Space Agency’s Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite in 2008. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Hamburg/S.Schröter et al; Optical: NASA/NSF/IPAC-Caltech/UMass/2MASS, UNC/CTIO/PROMPT; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss.