When things start heating up in our solar system, we get all in a tizzy over the possibility that cell phone reception might be interrupted, but we can now call these minor inconveniences “third planet problems” in light of new information from Hubble.
Astronomers have found a gas giant, 60 light years away from Earth, that’s been hit with a violent flare from its star, blasting it with an intense wave of X-ray radiation. Because the exoplanet is so close to its sun, the radiation causes its atmosphere to evaporate into space at a rate of 1,000 tons per second.
Although this planet has a climate where the temperature reaches around 1000 degrees Celsius, that steamy goodness isn’t enough to evaporate the atmosphere, and scientists were thrilled to be able to observe the dramatic differences between this observation and previous ones where they were unable to observe the planet’s atmosphere at all. Though “…X-ray emissions are a small part of the star’s total output…” they appear to be driving the atmospheric destruction much as they disrupt communications on Earth.
For those of us without that much of a scientific bent but plenty of appetite for random violence on a stellar scale, the cause isn’t as important as the hefty dose of space schadenfreude the event provides.
Hot times in space.Author on Google+