Friday, July 23, 2010

In the news: planet HD 209458b

Planet HD 209458b has been described as "cometary" because of its gaseous, comet-like tail. The tail is actually its own atmosphere - on fire. The planet orbits its star so closely, and with such speed - a year on planet HD 209458b is 3.5 days, compared to Mercury's around-the-Sun in 88 - that its atmosphere is burning up at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Planet HD 209458b is the "first confirmation" that stars within a proximity can strip planets of their masses. The Hubble Telescope has discovered that the tapered gas tail, which is about 153 light years away, is streaming toward Earth at 22,000 miles per hour; Armageddon?

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