Scientists discover 350,000 mile tail on planet similar to Jupiter

Scientists discover 350,000 mile tail on planet similar to Jupiter


James Powel
 USA TODAY

Scientists have found that a planet outside of our solar system has a comet like tail, providing clues into how planets evolve over time.

WASP-69b, a planet similar to Jupiter discovered 10 years ago, was found by a team lead by UCLA astrophysicists to have a tail of at least 350,000 miles comprised of gasses from the planet’s atmosphere. The research was published in the Astrophysical Journal Wednesday.

“The WASP-69b system is a gem because we have a rare opportunity to study atmospheric mass-loss in real time and understand the critical physics that shape thousands of other planets,” Erik Petigura, co-author and UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, said in a press release.

Planet not in danger from star’s forces

The exoplanet is close enough to its sun to make a complete orbit in less than four days, leading to its atmosphere being degraded by the star’s radiation at a rate of 200,000 tons per second and formed into a tail by its stellar wind.

Previous research into WASP-69b suggested that the planet had a “subtle tail” according to Dakotah Tyler, a UCLA doctoral student and first author of the research, but the team found that the tail is “at least seven times longer than the planet itself.”

Despite this, the planet, which is around 90 times the mass of Earth, is not in danger of being destroyed before its star flames out.

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“WASP-69b has such a large reservoir of material that even losing this enormous amount of mass won’t affect it much over the course of its life. It’s in no danger of losing its entire atmosphere within the star’s lifetime,” Tyler said in the press release.

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