Hubble Space Telescope has found a unique, evaporating planet 32 light years away from Earth

Due to its proximity to the parent star, the planet endures a continuous and forceful onslaught, leading to the gradual evaporation of its hydrogen atmosphere.

| Updated on: Jul 29 2023, 17:13 IST
Solar storms that plagued the Earth this week: Massive solar flare eruption, 2 CME strikes, more
1/5 The week began with a minor solar storm incident on Monday, when aurora displays were seen in some high-latitude areas. The solar activity didn't stop there as another new sunspot, AR3363, that appeared to be crackling with solar flares also began moving towards Earth's view. (Pixabay)
2/5 The very next day, the unstable region on Sun began exploding. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory detected a massive M6-class solar flare that kept erupting for a long duration. Reportedly, it released more energy than some X-class flares. This sparked a planet-wide shortwave radio blackout. (Pixabay)
3/5 On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) prediction models confirmed that a fast-moving coronal mass ejection (CME) released during the flare eruption, and it was set to deliver a glancing blow to the Earth.  (NASA)
4/5 NOAA declared a 3-day warning for solar storms as it confirmed that yet another CME cloud is also headed for our planet and can impact the magnetosphere on July 22. The first CME was expected to strike on Friday, July 21. (NASA SDO)
5/5 On Friday, the first of two CME struck the Earth, delivering the second minor solar storm for the week. The second CME was expected to strike by July 22 and intensify the first ongoing storm. The resultant effect has been forecasted to even spark a G3-class geomagnetic storm. Now, the weekend appears to be a quiet one, as no further solar activity is expected. But with multiple new sunspots expected to come to the Earth's view over the weekend, the next week can be even more chaotic. (Pixabay)
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AU Microscopii (AU Mic) is a parent star situated 32 light-years away from Earth and is home to one of the youngest known planetary systems. (Representative image) (Pixabay)

We know that the universe is full of strange, even unique, bodies, but it still never ceases to amaze and surprise us every day. Now, thanks to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, we have got to know about another unique planet out there - a planet in trouble. Recently NASA scientists have observed a planet whose atmosphere is spreading outwards and it is changing in unexpected manner due to the proximity to its star.

Evaporating Planet

A recently discovered, youthful planet orbits a moody red dwarf star and is undergoing intriguing transformations with each orbit. Due to its proximity to the parent star, the planet endures a continuous and forceful influx of energy, leading to the gradual evaporation of its hydrogen atmosphere, resulting in a puffing effect on its surface.

Astronomers were taken aback by the remarkable variability observed during different orbits of a planet with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. In one orbit, there seemed to be no noticeable loss of atmospheric material, but a year and a half later, clear signs of atmospheric escape were observed. Keighley Rockcliffe from Dartmouth College expressed surprise, stating that such a rapid transition from undetectable to detectable atmospheric loss during a planetary transit was unexpected and not what they were anticipating.

Rockcliffe was equally baffled by the sight of the planet's detectable atmosphere puffing out in front of it, resembling a headlight on a swiftly moving train. She described this observation as exceptionally peculiar and regarded it as a rigorous test for planetary evolution models. She said, “This observation is so cool because we're getting to probe this interplay between the star and the planet that is really at the most extreme."

AU Microscopii

According to a report by NASA, AU Microscopii (AU Mic) is a parent star situated 32 light-years away from Earth and is home to one of the youngest known planetary systems. This star is less than 100 million years old, a small fraction compared to our Sun, which is 4.6 billion years old. The closest planet to AU Mic, called AU Mic b, has an orbital period of 8.46 days and orbits at a distance of only 6 million miles from the star, approximately 1/10th of Mercury's distance from the Sun. This gaseous planet is bloated and has a diameter about four times that of Earth.

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First Published Date: 29 Jul, 17:12 IST