A newborn "hot Jupiter" planet is getting slowly ripped apart by its own star, according to research published on the preprint server arXiv.
Based on the emissions coming from it, the planet called PTFO 8-8695 b looks like it's wrapped in a big cloud that is slowly getting sucked into the star.
It's not so surprising: PTFO 8-8695 b, which sits about 1,000 light-years away in the constellation Orion, is so close to its host star that it completes an entire orbit every 11 hours. Imagine an 11-hour year on Earth.
"We don't know the ultimate fate of this planet," astronomer Christopher Johns-Krull, lead author on the new study, said in a statement. "It likely formed farther away from the star and has migrated in to a point where it's being destroyed."
Here's an illustration showing what it looks like:
And another artist's concept:
There are a lot of unknowns still. Johns-Krull can't even confirm that PTFO 8-8695 b is a planet because he doesn't have a good measure of its mass yet. The problem is, PTFO 8-8695 b is orbiting a very young star. Young stars are often covered in sunspots and have lots of bright flares that make it difficult to see anything orbiting around them.
We've seen other worlds like this one that orbit extremely close to their stars, but it's unclear if PTFO 8-8695 b will survive.
"We know there are close-orbiting planets around middle-aged stars that are presumably in stable orbits," Johns-Krull said in the statement. "What we don't know is how quickly this young planet is going to lose its mass and whether it will lose too much to survive."
Johns-Krull will keep observing the planet candidate to see if it stays in a stable orbit or gets swallowed by its star.