Changing Planet

NASA Finds “Death Star” Blasting Planet With X-Rays

A planet about 880 light-years from Earth may be about to meet Alderaan‘s fate: It’s being blasted apart by a “death star.”

For now the planet—dubbed CoRoT-2b [or not to be]—has a mass about three times that of Jupiter. That’s 3 x (1.8981 x 10 to the 27) kilograms, for those of you keeping score.

The planet and its sunlike host star were discovered in 2008 using the European Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite.

Now, according to new data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers can tell that the planet is being hit with x-rays about a hundred thousand times more intense that what Earth receives from the sun.

“This planet is being absolutely fried by its star,” study co-author Sebastian Schröter, of the University of Hamburg in Germany, said in a press statement.

All that high-energy radiation is evaporating about five million tons of matter from the planet *each second.*

X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Hamburg/S.Schröter et al; Optical: NASA/NSF/IPAC-Caltech/UMass/2MASS, UNC/CTIO/PROMPT

Of course, the parent star CoRoT-2a (the purple dot at center above) may tell you that the planet was asking for it.

The star is already all growed up, with an estimated age between 100 million and 300 million years old.

But CoRoT-2a is also very active for its age—the star is producing all those x-rays thanks to a strong and turbulent magnetic field, which is a feature of much younger stellar bodies.

Writing in the August issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, the study authors surmise that the star’s activity may be an effect of the planet orbiting relatively close, at a distance about ten times the span between Earth and the moon.

“Because this planet is so close to the star, it may be speeding up the star’s rotation, and that could be keeping its magnetic fields active,” study co-author Stefan Czesla, also from the University of Hamburg, said in the statement.

“If it wasn’t for the planet, this star might have left behind the volatility of its youth millions of years ago.”

In other words, planets, it may not be in your best interest to be clingy.

  • JC

    Historically speaking, it’s a great time to be alive. However, I sometimes wish that I were living in the unspecified future where interstellar FTL ships were readily available so we could actually go see these things live in person.

  • BP

    Unless there is no future for mankind, in which case enjoy it while it lasts!

    Keep your powder dry

  • Jeffy Hamster

    Please Mr. Star, don’t eat your friendly planet-neighbor. What sort of precedent would that set?

  • JI

    Really great point, JC.

  • Future JC

    Even with our FTL vehicles, once we “see” one these events and fly out there, it had already occured so long ago that there’s nothing to see once we get there.

  • JTK

    What’s with the cutesy juvenile way this article is written? It’s an interesting science report and doesn’t need jazzing up (if that’s what the “or not 2b” and “all growed up” and “advice” to planets to not “to be clingy” are supposed to be).

  • dorkenergy

    Cling-Free Planet Softener?

  • dorkenergy

    … or

    McCoy: “Aye, Aye, Captain, I don’t think the Clingons will be troublin’ us any more.”

  • Gerald

    Man, I bet that STINGS!!

  • […] National Geographic […]

  • Eric

    If my math is correct the time it will take that planet to be completely destroyed is upwards of 36 Billion years! So that is a pretty inefficient planet killing sun x-ray beam weapon… thing.

    Math Time:

    (3 * 1.8981 * 10^27) / (5,000,000 * 1000) = 1,138,860,000,000,000,000 seconds

    1,138,860,000,000,000,000 / 60 / 60 / 24 / 365.24 = 36,089,283,758.62 years

    The (5,000,000 * 1,000) is converting tons to kilograms per second.

  • Monkey See

    This star is probably gonna come near eart on december 20 2012 and kill us. So Thats what the mayans predicted

  • Rath

    Many Bothans died to bring us this information? How many is many?

  • Rath

    @JC we’d need some sort of Tardis then we could see where and when it happened and to back in time to see it.

  • jason

    I’ve always wondered how many of these phenomenons that we see in the sky actually occured some time ago. I never heard of any scientist saying oh this happened 1000 years ago. Well just a thought.

  • […] the original here:  NASA Finds “Death Star” Blasting Planet With X-Rays – National Geographic Posted in Technology Tags: moved-temporarily, sci/tech, technology news, temporarily « […]

  • Joseph Paine

    “The star is already all growed up…” All growed up, really? Hire an editor!

  • Mathy

    The article isn’t clear about whether that’s 5,000,000 metric tons (1000 kg) or 5,000,000 short (US) tons (2000 lbs, about 907 kg). If it’s short tons then add about 3.6 billion years onto Eric’s calculation.

  • Mr Nawak

    That’s no moon, it’s a space station !

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  • UghHmm

    I didn’t expect NatGeo to miss this sentence, “The star is already all growed up, with an estimated age between 100 million and 300 million years old.” It sounds challenged.

  • UghHmm

    Awesome article though.

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  • Zshane’

    lol nobody not even a star wants a clingy plant lol i dont even want a clingy boyfriend 😀 LOL

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  • Princess Beezlebot

    I only made it through the first few lines, then I commented
    Out loud to anyone in the room who would listen. “Who wrote
    This crap?”. Ugh, just say no, no, no.

  • randrand


  • Fr3d

    After reading some thirty years or so of scientific reports in various subjects where the researchers in question thoroughly believed theirs was the only true opinion, this new era of unabashed, delighted discovery is refreshing. To discover the scientific community is not only exchanging information and helping each other in research but has developed a sense of humour, the delight is ten-fold. In regards to the reporting of all this, Ms Jaggard, keep up the good work.

  • Poison Oak Magnet

    Death Star? This planet gets free X-Rays all the time! That’s better healthcare the most Americans get.

  • JC

    To the commenters, yes, some things would be long over by the time we got there. However, in this particular case, 800 light years at FTL speed? Depends on the speed of the craft and the event, but in this case, I’m thinking we could still be there while it’s still getting zapped. 🙂

  • builder7

    If only planets could talk!

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  • Christian

    This is very interesting and im only 12

  • […] Planet-Destroying Star of the Day: CoRoT-2b, a large planet about 880 light-years from Earth, is being destroyed by its own sun. […]

  • alf

    “If it wasn’t for the planet, this star might have left behind the volatility of its youth millions of years ago.”

    …It left its volatility yesterday, you will find that after 880 years.

  • James Tiberius


    McCoy was the doctor, Mr. Scott “Scotty” was the engineer. Understandable mistake though.

  • monkey

    i am awesome

  • Prasad

    Isn’t this an old news – I mean nearly 880 years old? I am not understanding the point of this article. 🙂

  • […] NASA has discovered a planet 880 light years from earth that is being blasted by a “death” star, reports National Geographic. […]

  • […] NASA has discovered a planet 880 light years from earth that is being blasted by a "death" star, reports National Geographic. […]

  • Crash

    In other news, the housing market has taken a significant hit on CoRoT-2b, with a forecast of 0% growth over the next 100 millennia.

  • hu

    cool article very cool indeed

  • […] is a heady time for sci-fi fans. Earlier this week NASA announced that a death star is bombarding a planet about 880 light years from Earth with x-rays. We […]

  • […] NASA Finds “Death Star” Blasting Planet With X-Rays from National Geographic. […]

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  • shubham


    hey mr. universe don’t eat my sweety earth





    hey my id find request



    Enjoyed the lively presentation written by knowledgeable pro w/ a great sense of language!

    Fascinating, plus!

  • brainfreeze

    Every couple of days I’ll look out to the stars and see a star flickering red, blue, yellow or orange and green. I can’t find info on what causes this effect, so i was hoping u can tell me.

  • jd

    i cant believe it its shocking
    some people think its funny
    i think its really weird

  • KK

    For brainfeeze’s question. The colored flickering of a star you are seeing happens because of the high altitude moisture or ice particles in the upper atmosphere. These particles act like a prism and difuse the light into the different bandwidths of color. You get the same effect when you spray a water hose into the air on a sunny day to create a rainbow.

  • […] I don't mean to sound like some crazy conspiracy kook but… Maybe not so far fetched…. NASA Finds “Death Star” Blasting Planet With X-Rays – News Watch The Fable of the Ducks & the Hens by George Rockwell "Nor is it less certain that […]

  • bob

    hey lookin up the earth is fun n enjoyable okay its in excited………

  • Crystal

    Yikes!!! The univers can be HARSH!!!

  • ugg アグ

    I am very interested for this post.This site is so helpful. So i want some information for sharing this side with some of my friend. Thanks!

  • Nile

    5 million tons is small change to a Jupiter-sized object.

    That’s 5 x 10^9, and there’s 3 x 10^7 seconds in a year. Do a bit of rough arithmetic, and the planet’s got another ten billion years to go.

    Admittedly, I don’t think I’ll be going there to get that extra-special suntan; not even with the world’s coolest Ray-Ban sunglasses and factor-50 sun block.

    Meanwhile, stop trying to impress the uneducated with big numbers: planets are big, we *know* that already, and most of us have no trouble working with powers of ten. Maybe I could try impressing you by telling you the size of my amazing brain, in nanograms, and how far I walk to work, in millimetres and in molecules of air displaced: big numbers, of little value.

    A number that would impress me – and offer some value to those who lack a scientific education – is a comparative figure for the effect of solar radiation and the solar wind on Earth’s atmosphere.

    Do we lose a ton an hour, or a ton a year? What’s a million tons, as a fraction of the Earth’s inventory of atmospheric gas and crustal volatiles? And, given that a Jupiter-sized planet presents a larger face to its sun, it would be usefult to say what an Earth-sized would experience in that solar system, at that distance from their sun.

    Comparison and context: it’s the difference between education and explanation, on the one hand, and boastful obscurantism on the other.

  • johnmanuel

    to be continued!

  • walt eubanks

    so let me get this straight will ever destroy earth soon please giveme a comment and tell me your name and age

  • Sarah DeMarcus

    The inner planets help keep the star’s spin strong, I didn’t know that.

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