Exoplanet WASP-69 b is followed by a staggeringly long tail

Exoplanet WASP-69 b is followed by a staggeringly long tail

Astronomers have recently confirmed a celestial phenomenon surrounding the exoplanet WASP-69 b, located 160 light-years away. This blazing-hot world, orbiting the K-type star WASP-69, is captivating scientists with its astonishing 350,000-mile-long gaseous tail. Let’s delve into the unique characteristics of this distant exoplanet and the remarkable discovery that adds a new dimension to our understanding of planetary atmospheres.

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1. WASP-69 b: The Hot Jupiter in Focus

1.1 Size and Orbit Characteristics

WASP-69 b, formally named MakombΓ©, belongs to the hot Jupiter class of exoplanets. Approximately 10% larger than Jupiter but only 30% of its mass, this intriguing planet orbits its host star at a mere five percent of the Earth-Sun distance. The result is a scorching environment, subjecting WASP-69 b to intense stellar radiation reminiscent of Mercury’s conditions.

1.2 James Webb Space Telescope Exploration

In the summer of 2022, WASP-69 b gained prominence as one of the initial targets of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), drawing attention to its unique atmospheric characteristics.

2. The Revelation: A Cometlike Tail Emerges

2.1 Escaping Atmosphere and Tail Formation

In a groundbreaking study published in The Astrophysical Journal on Jan. 9, a team led by UCLA astrophysicists unveiled WASP-69 b’s secret – a cometlike tail stretching over 350,000 miles. Unlike anything observed in our solar system, this tail is a result of the planet’s atmosphere escaping into space due to the stellar wind from WASP-69.

2.2 Real-time Atmospheric Mass Loss

The discovery offers a rare opportunity for scientists to witness atmospheric mass loss in real time. By utilizing the high-resolution spectrograph NIRSPEC on the W. M. Keck Observatory’s 10-meter telescope in Hawaii, researchers could gauge the rate at which WASP-69 b loses its atmosphere. The planet sheds approximately one Earth mass every billion years, allowing for a detailed understanding of this captivating process.

3. Insights into Planetary Evolution

3.1 Crucial Data for Planetary Studies

The extended tail behind WASP-69 b provides a crucial window into the evolution of planets with close orbits around their host stars. With the majority of stars hosting planets closer than Mercury orbits the Sun, understanding atmospheric erosion becomes pivotal in explaining the diversity of exoplanets observed today.

3.2 WASP-69 b’s Longevity

Despite losing atmospheric material, the scientists emphasize that WASP-69 b, with its immense mass and expansive atmosphere, will endure for millennia. At around 90 times the mass of Earth, the planet’s colossal reservoir of material ensures its longevity, making it a lasting presence in the cosmic tapestry.

Conclusion: A Cosmic Wonder Unveiled

WASP-69 b emerges as a cosmic wonder, challenging our perceptions of planetary atmospheres and offering scientists a unique opportunity to study real-time atmospheric mass loss. As this hot Jupiter continues to captivate astronomers, its 350,000-mile tail remains a testament to the vast and intriguing complexities of the universe.

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