Astronomers have received new data about the planet, which is located at a distance of 950 light years from Earth, and has a “tail” that is 18 times the size of Jupiter.
It’s this “tail” that makes the exoplanet known as HAT-P-32 b one of the largest planetary structures seen outside the Solar System, Space reported.
Astronomers observed the gaseous “tail” of HAT-P-32 b, made of helium, using telescopes from Earth.
“We discovered a giant ‘tail’ of helium gas associated with the planet. The tail is large – about 53 times the radius of the planet – formed by gas escaping from the planet,” – says Zhoujian Zhang, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The team studied HAT-P-32 b, which was discovered in 2011, by observing the light coming from its parent star, which is about the same size as the Sun and slightly hotter than it.
The team of astronomers was also able to calculate the mass loss rate of the planet, finding that it would take 40 billion years for HAT-P-32 b to completely lose its atmosphere. However, the planet is unlikely to live that long. F-type stars, such as the host star HAT-P-32 A, have lifetimes of only 2 to 4 billion years.
In the future, the team intends to study other planets similar to HAT-P-32 b to observe their evolution.
Since the first planets outside the solar system were first discovered in the 1990s, “exoplanet hunters” have found more than 5,000 worlds orbiting distant stars of various shapes, masses and characteristics.
Astronomers have discovered a vast number of large Jupiter-sized planets orbiting close to their stars, and a smaller but still significant number of small Earth-sized worlds orbiting close to their stars.
However, few medium-sized planets orbiting close to their parent stars have been discovered. One possible explanation for this is that planets close to their stars are shedding their atmospheres and thus losing mass.
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