An interesting discovery was made by a team of Princeton astrophysicists about the exoplanet WASP-12b, a planet discovered in 2008 that orbits the star WASP-12, a yellow dwarf located about 600 light-years away from us and identifiable in the constellation Auriga. According to the researchers, this planet would have the time counted: within 3 million years it will be so close to its own star that it will be destroyed.
Three million years is very little considering that the Earth should survive for at least another 5 billion years. In the study, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, it’s described how this gaseous planet, defined as a warm Jovian, is so close to its star that it orbits around this star in just 26 hours (the Earth, to make a comparison, orbits the Sun every 365 days).
The researchers knew that this planet couldn’t last long because the gravitational forces between the planet itself and the star are so strong that sooner or later the attraction will be fatal. However, after measuring the rate of this gravitational force itself, the researchers discovered that the life of the planet is shorter than previously theorized, basically it’s coming to an end.
Everything is due to the friction of the tides that are caused by the gravitational thrust of the star on the planet and vice versa. This causes a thrust towards the interior of the planet that approaches the star on a decadent spiral orbit that is getting shorter and shorter, a deadly spiral that has marked the fate of the planet. It’s a phenomenon that had already been predicted for giant planets very close to their stars but this is the first time that you can observe this process in action, as Samuel Yee, a graduate student in astrophysical sciences and first author of the study, explains.
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