If you had been to make a list of exoplanets that may be worth visiting in person, WASP-121b would not be anywhere near the top of your list. There are many exoplanets out there that wouldn’t be comfortable for people. However, WASP-121b is a particular kind of hostile, not to mention a shape that may look quite familiar to sports fans.
Astronomers have been learning WASP-121b utilizing NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and their observations are extremely wild. For starters, the planet is extremely hot, with an upper atmosphere reaching temperatures of 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit. That extreme temperature and the proximity of the planet to its host star has additionally affected its shape.
As the researchers explain in a brand new paper printed within the Astronomical Journal, WASP-121b is so hot and so near its star that it’s been deformed into an oblong, football-like shape. The unimaginable heat is so intense that it’s led parts like iron and magnesium to be vaporized, flowing into space as the star blasts the planet with tremendous force.
“This planet is a prototype for ultra-hot Jupiters. Their host stars so heavily irradiate these planets. They’re nearly like stars themselves,” Drake Deming, co-author of the research, mentioned in an announcement. “The planet is evaporated by its host star to the point that we can see metal atoms leaving the upper atmosphere where they can interact with the planet’s magnetic field. This presents a chance to watch and understand some exciting physics.”
By their nature, the so-called “hot Jupiter” exoplanets are very hot. However, this specific exoplanet is so near its star that it’s mostly being torn apart by it, pulling the planet into its unusual shape while additionally blasting material out of its atmosphere.