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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....

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.

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