Torn Apart by Its Own Tides, Massive Planet Is on a ‘Death March’

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Illustration of WASP-12b in orbit about its host star.

An international group of astrophysicists has determined that a massive planet outside our Solar System is being distorted and destroyed by its host star — a finding that helps explain the unexpectedly large size of the planet, WASP-12b.

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Astronomers Capture First Direct Spectrum of an Exoplanet

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By studying a triple planetary system that resembles a scaled-up version of our own Sun’s family of planets, astronomers have been able to obtain the first direct spectrum of a planet around a star, thus bringing new insights into its formation and composition.

By studying a triple planetary system that resembles a scaled-up version of our own Sun’s family of planets, astronomers have been able to obtain the first direct spectrum — the “chemical fingerprint” [1] — of a planet orbiting a distant star [2], thus bringing new insights into the planet’s formation and composition. The result represents a milestone in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe.

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Towards Other Earths: 32 New Exoplanets Found

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One of the 32 new exoplanets recently discovered using the HARPS spectrograph is surrounding the star Gliese 667 C, which belongs to a triple system. The 6 Earth-mass exoplanet circulates around its low-mass host star at a distance equal to only 1/20th of the Earth-Sun distance. The host star is a companion to two other low-mass stars, which are seen here in the distance.

Today, at an international ESO/CAUP exoplanet conference in Porto, the team who built the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, better known as HARPS, the spectrograph for ESO’s 3.6-metre telescope, reports on the incredible discovery of some 32 new exoplanets, cementing HARPS’s position as the world’s foremost exoplanet hunter. This result also increases the number of known low-mass planets by an impressive 30%. Over the past five years HARPS has spotted more than 75 of the roughly 400 or so exoplanets now known.

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