A New Planet Hopeful in Our Galaxy Is Being Pulled to Shreds by Its Star

Sunday, 12 June 2016 - 3:00PM
Sunday, 12 June 2016 - 3:00PM
PTFO8-8695 b is a newly discovered planet candidate that might be one of our galaxy's youngest and most unique. With an orbit that only takes 11 hours to complete, this new planet candidate is a "hot Jupiter," a term for hot planets with large masses and short orbital periods. But its already short life may not last for much longer; PTFO8- 8695 b orbits a star 1,100 light years from Earth, and its proximity to the host star is slowly killing it.

Researchers think that PTFO8-8695 b's outer layers are being ripped away by the gravity pull of its nearby star. "A handful of known planets are in similarly small orbits, but because this star is only 2 million years old, this is one of the most extreme examples," astronomer Christopher Johns-Krull from Rice University said in a statement

PTFO8-8695 b was identified in 2012 by an international survey called the Palomar Transit Factory. Even though it's only been on our radars for a short time, no one is quite sure just how long this potential planet will continue to exist.

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"We don't know the ultimate fate of this planet," says John-Krull,"It likely formed farther away from the star and has migrated in to a point where it's being destroyed. We know there are close-orbiting planets around middle-aged stars that are presumably in stable orbits. What we don't know is how quickly this young planet is going to lose its mass and whether it will lose too much to survive."
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So will this baby reach planethood in its short lifespan?  Though there is no absolute proof of PTFO8-8695 b's planetary status, astronomers are hopeful. "We compared our evidence against every other scenario we could imagine, and the weight of evidence suggests this is one of the youngest planets yet observed," said Johns-Krull. 


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