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Comet tails of heated exoplanets discovered in space - VIDEO PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 June 2015 12:00

Astronomers studying these Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a huge cloud of hydrogen flowing down to a planet orbiting a nearby star.

The cloud is called "Hippo". On the surface it looks like the tail of a comet, and there was due to the fact that hydrogen is evaporated from the surface of the hot extrasolar planets under the influence of the radiation of the parent star. Needless cloud is larger than the diameter of the preheating of its light nearly 50 times.

This phenomenon had never been observed around a planet similar in size to Neptune, and the temperature - Mercury. This phenomenon may be a clue to understanding the nature of other planets warmed (so-called hot super-Earths) lose hydrogen under the influence of the radiation of their parent stars, while remaining a solid rocky core.

"This cloud is extremely impressive. The rate of evaporation of hydrogen is currently not threatening the planet itself - says study leader David Ehrenreich (David Ehrenreich) from the observatory at the University of Geneva. - However, we know that in the past the star, which is a faint red dwarf, was more active. This means that during the first billion years of the planet evaporate quickly went from too active radiation of the star. We believe that the planet has lost over the last few billion years, about 10% of its atmosphere. "

Exoplanet GJ 436b is located very close to its parent star and completes a full revolution around it in just 2.64 Earth days (Figure D.Ehrenreich / V. Bourrier (Université de Genève) / A. Gracia Berná (Universität Bern)).

unusual world called Gliese 436 b (GJ 436 b) and is classified as "warm Neptune" because of its size and because it is much closer to its star than Neptune to our Sun.

The distance between the star and the planet is only three million kilometers (compared to the Sun and Earth are separated about 150 million kilometers). GJ 436 b completes an orbit around its native shone just 2.64 Earth Day. Exoplanet removed from us at a distance of 33 light years and is one of the closest known exoplanet. Its putative age - about 6 billion years.

Not the fact that the planet's atmosphere to evaporate completely and leave one rocky core, but the exoplanet could explain the existence of other stars close to the super-Earths, for example, discovered the telescope Kepler. Hot super-Earths may also be remnants of more massive planets, lost his thick gaseous atmosphere in the same way.

We add that the discovery of such objects is possible only with the help of ultraviolet "of" space telescope "Hubble". The fact is that with the waves of the visible spectrum can not be seen from Earth, the planet through her unusual cloud.

Since the planet's orbit is tilted nearly edge-on to our planet can be seen as GJ 436b passes across the face of its star. Astronomers can observe only as "Behemoth" eclipses the parent star.

Ehrenreich and his team believe that such a huge cloud of gas exists around the planet for so long, for the reason that the cloud is heated slowly enough (red dwarf - a star relatively cool).

It is possible that such evaporation took place to be in the early stages of development and in our solar system, when Earth had a hydrogen-rich atmosphere (ie, about 100-500 million years ago). If so, then it is likely that the early Earth, too, was once a comet-like tail.

Ehrenreich suspect that in the near future, astronomers will find thoUSAnds of similar "tailed" planets.


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