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Hubble Telescope Finds Planet Being Eaten By its Own Star

The Hubble space telescope has discovered a planet in our galaxy -- 300 times the size of Earth -- that is in the process of being devoured by the star it orbits. But don't worry, you still have time to visit the doomed planet -- the process will take ten million years to complete.

According to a paper published The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the planet, given the uninspiring name of WASP-12b, has the highest known surface temperature of any planet in the Milky Way -- around 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit (that's an artist's rendition of the planet courtesy of NASA above).

Using a new instrument called the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph that was installed on Hubble in 2009, the researchers observed how the planet was whipped into an elongated shape by gravitational forces.

"We see a huge cloud of material around the planet, which is escaping and will be captured by the star. We have identified chemical elements never before seen on planets outside our own solar system," team leader Carole Haswell of The Open University in Great Britain said.

It is so close to its parent star that it orbits it in little more than 24 hours. Astronomers already knew that stars will swallow a planet that comes too close to it, but this is the first time that the phenomenon has been observed so clearly.

Not only is WASP-12b super hot, it's also super huge. It is 300 times the size of earth, and has a  mass 40% greater than Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. It is located 600 light-years from Earth.


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