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Planet WASP-12b Is on a Death Spiral, Say Scientists

13 Jan 2020, 21:37 UTC
Planet WASP-12b Is on a Death Spiral, Say Scientists
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Earth is doomed — but not for 5 billion years. Our planet will be roasted as our sun expands and becomes a red giant, but the exoplanet WASP-12b, located 600 light-years away in the constellation Auriga, has less than a thousandth of that time left: a comparatively paltry 3 million years.A Princeton-led team of astrophysicists has shown that WASP-12b is spiraling in toward its host star, heading toward certain destruction. Their paper appears in the Dec. 27, 2019, issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.WASP-12b is known as a “hot Jupiter,” a giant gaseous planet like our neighbor planet Jupiter, but which is very close to its own star, orbiting its sun in just 26 hours. (By contrast, we take 365 days to orbit, and even Mercury, the innermost planet of our solar system, takes 88 days.)“Ever since the discovery of the first ‘hot Jupiter’ in 1995 — a discovery that was recognized with this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics — we have wondered how long such planets can survive,” said Joshua Winn, a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton and one of the authors of the paper. “We were pretty sure they could not last forever. The strong gravitational interactions ...

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