A team of astrophysicists led by Princeton University has discovered that the exoplanet WASP-12b is in the midst of 3 million years of destruction,media reported. The planet, located 14,000 light-years from Earth in the Constellation of Auriga, is believed to be circling towards the sun and eventually being destroyed by tidal forces. Even if WASP-12b is viewed by exoplanet standards, it is still extremely unusual.
The “hot Jupiter”, which was discovered in 2008, orbits the parent star every 26 hours at a location of 2 million miles. The tidal-locked planet not only has a daytime temperature of 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,600 degrees Celsius), but is also carbon-rich and has a albedo of 0.064, meaning it reflects light like a piece of asphalt, and it is one of the darkest planetary objects ever found.
Another strange thing about WASP-12b is that it is so close to the star that the two objects exert tidal forces on each other, heating WASP-12b, and the star produces distorted tidal waves. These waves should eventually be reduced by friction. At the same time, friction exerts gravity on the planet, causing it to rotate toward its parent star.
When WASP-12b is close enough to the star, it will reach the so-called Lothian limit, where tidal forces become strong enough to tear it apart — although in the short term, it could still become a rocky super-Earth or Little Neptune because its atmosphere will be stripped away.
In addition to the plot of the planet facing premature destruction, the phenomenon could also allow astrophysicists to learn more about the orbital mechanics of exoplanets and the inner dynamics of stars. Although tidal damage to hot Jupiters like WASP-12b has been predicted, this is the first time it has been observed in the wild, providing scientists with first-hand data.