Distant sun secretly devouring its planet

Nov. 20, 2012 at 5:17 PM
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LONDON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A distant planet is being devoured by its own sun with the cataclysmic event taking place invisibly behind a veil absorbing all light, British astronomers say.

Researchers with Britain's Wide Angle Search for Planets consortium first discovered the planet WASP-12 b in 2008, orbiting extremely close to its parent star, Britain's Open University reported Tuesday.

The distance between the star and planet is so small that a superheated gas cloud has been boiled off the planet, some of which is feeding the star while some escapes into space, creating a veil or shroud that makes observation difficult by blocking many wavelengths of light.

Astronomers said a structure like this had never before been observed around a star.

"It's as though a veil has been drawn over the planet's demise," the Open University's Carole Haswell said.

The new observations were made with the Hubble Space Telescope using near-ultraviolet light.

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