Astronomers have been able, for the first time, to detect a planet that is suffering from “orbital decay” and is gradually approaching its star dangerously, which will eventually collide with its star, completely obliterating its interior, in what may give a glimpse of the possible end of the planet after billions of years.
Orbital decay is a gradual decrease in the distance between two orbiting objects; Like a planet and its moon, or a planet and a star.
And astronomers discovered the planet “Kepler-1658b” using Kepler telescope Oddly enough, that planet was the first exoplanet ever spotted by Kepler in 2009, though, and it took more than a decade to confirm its existence.
Scientists also call that planet a “hot Jupiter”, which is the nickname given to exoplanets that are equal to Jupiter’s mass and size, but in very close orbits around their host stars.
And that planet is located at a distance of 7 million kilometers from its host star; It is a distance not more than one-eighth of the distance between our sun and the nearest planet orbiting it, Mercury.
The study, published in the Journal ofThe Astrophysical Journal LettersThis “hot Jupiter” orbits its star in less than 4 days.
said the principal author of the study Shriyas of Visapragadafrom the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, that “at this rate, the planet will collide with its star in less than 3 million years,” according to what was reported by “Agence France Presse.”
Measuring the orbital decay of exoplanets is challenging for researchers because the process is so slow and incremental.
The orbital decay process ends when the two bodies collide with each other and the smaller body, with the lowest mass, annihilates inside the other body.
This discovery offers new insight into the long-running process of planetary orbit decay by providing the first look at a system at such a late stage in that process.
Scientists believe that the fate of that planet awaits many other planets and could also be the fate of Earth, billions of years from now as our sun ages.
Scientists have previously discovered evidence of exoplanets heading towards their dying stars, that is, stars that are running out of hydrogen fuel and are in their final stages before becoming red giants and collapsing.
However, this is the first time scientists have ever observed the orbital decay of a planet orbiting a developing star.
The study says that advanced stars are very effective in weakening the energy of the orbits of their planets.
In the case of that planet, according to the new study; Its orbital period is decreasing, at a paltry rate of about 131 milliseconds (thousandths of a second) per year, with a shorter orbit indicating that the planet has moved closer to its star.
Detecting this decline required several years of careful observation. Over the past 13 years, the planet’s orbit has decreased slightly but steadily.
The root cause of the orbital decay suffered by that planet is due to the phenomenon of tides; It is the same phenomenon responsible for the daily rise and fall of the Earth’s oceans.
Kepler-1658b’s orbit is shrinking inexorably under the influence of gravity exerted by the star, similar to the gravity exerted by the Moon on various points on Earth.
Tides occur through gravitational interactions between two circular bodies, as happens between our world and the Moon or Kepler-1658b and its star.
The bodies’ gravity distorts each other, and when the bodies respond to these changes, energy is released.
Depending on the distances between the objects involved and their sizes and rotation rates, these tidal interactions can push the objects away from each other, as is the case with Earth and the Moon slowly receding outward, or inward, as is the case with Kepler-1658b and its star.
There is still a lot of mystery surrounding these dynamics, especially in the interstellar scenarios.
So; Further study of the Kepler-1658b planet system could be useful.
The star of the planet in question evolved to a point in its stellar life cycle where it began to expand, just as would be expected of our Sun, and entered what astronomers call a substellar phase.
The internal structure of well-developed stars should more easily dissipate tidal energy from the orbits of their host planets than in undeveloped stars like our Sun, and this speeds up the orbital decay process.
The findings also help explain the intrinsic oddity around Kepler-1658b, which appears much brighter and hotter than expected.
The research team says that tidal interactions that shrink the planet’s orbit may also lead to additional energy production within the planet itself.
Scientists say that there is a situation similar to what is happening on that planet in our solar system, as Jupiter’s moon “Io” is one of the most volcanic bodies in the solar system, and it appears that the tides caused by the huge mass of Jupiter dissolve the bowels of that moon, which leads to the exit of Molten rocks on the surface of the famous infernal moon, forming yellow sulfur deposits and terrifying red lava.
Scientists say that “Kepler-1658b” will serve as a space laboratory that will help to better understand these phenomena in the coming years.
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