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article imageAstronomers find evaporating exoplanet that may turn into dust

By Andrew Moran     May 20, 2012 in Science
Cambridge - Scientists have recently discovered an exoplanet that is approximately 1,500 light years away. The exoplanet, though, will soon evaporate and turn into dust because it is orbiting quite close to its parent star.
Digital Journal has reported in the past of exoplanets that orbit too close to its parent star that it atmosphere burns away and creates a comet tail-like scene. Astronomers have found another exoplanet that is suffering the same fate, according to a press release.
MIT and NASA scientists have discovered a planet that is 1,500 light years away and circles its parent star every 15 hours, which heats the planet at 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (1,982 degrees Celius) and causes its rocky material at the surface to melt and eventually evaporate.
The scientists have noticed a dust trail speeding around its star. The researchers say this is why the star dims every 15 hours or so. The team estimates that the planet will be completely gone within the next 100 million years.
"We think this dust is made up of sub­mi­cron-sized par­t­i­cles. It would be like look­ing through a Los An­ge­les smog. I’m not sure how we came to this epiphany," said Saul Rappaport, MIT professor emeritus of physics, in a news release. "But it had to be something that was fundamentally changing. It was not a solid body, but rather, dust coming off the planet.”
What will happen to the dust? There are two possible scenarios as to how the planetary dust will form: eruption of ash from its surface volcanoes or metal formation due to evaporation from high temperatures and condensed dust.
“This might be another way in which planets are eventually doomed,” said Dan Fabrycky, a member of the Kepler Observatory. "A lot of research has come to the conclusion that planets are not eternal objects, they can die extraordinary deaths, and this might be a case where the planet might evaporate entirely in the future."
More about Exoplanet, Dust, evaporating, Mit, Astronomers
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