You’ve never seen anything like it: Comet found!

Little planet, where's your tail?

3 mins read
You've never seen anything like it: Comet found!

Every time we look deep into space, we come across celestial bodies with features we’ve never seen before. This planet that scientists have found is one of them.

With a 563,270 kilometer long tail (longer than the distance between the Earth and the Moon), this planet is the size of Jupiter. The planet, named WASP-69b, is located 160 light years from Earth. Observed by researchers from the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the planet’s tail is formed by the helium gas it spews into space.

Dakotah Tyler, an astrophysics PhD candidate at UCLA and lead author of the study, notes that in previous observations, the planet had either a very short tail or no tail at all: “But in our latest observations, we were definitely able to show a helium tail 7 times longer than the giant planet’s own diameter.”

WASP-69b’s orbit is said to be very close to its star and takes only 3.9 Earth days to complete. It is also said that the heat from the star burns the atmosphere of the planet. You can see this in the design below:

With its huge 30-meter-wide mirror, the Keck II telescope seems to have been enough to capture the faint light from the planet’s tail. Tyler’s explanation confirms this: “What set Keck apart in our observations was the large collecting area of its mirror, which allowed us to get much more light from the star.”

Another instrument attached to the telescope is the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSPEC). With this instrument, it was possible to capture high-resolution details of the tail.

Scientists calculate that WASP-69b loses as much gas as the mass of the Earth every 1 billion years. Of course, since the planet is almost 90 times bigger than Earth, it still has a lot of gas to lose.

To date, NASA has discovered some 5560 exoplanets and there are more than 10,000 exoplanet candidates. Let’s see what interesting things the upcoming observations will reveal.

Summarized from Mark Kaufman’s report


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