Hubble spots football like 'heavy metal' planet that's leaking metals into space
Washington, Aug 02: Astronomers who used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope spotted a football exoplanet called WASP-121b and discovered a gravitational force is stretching the planet apart into the shape of an american football.
Hubble saw something even stranger: "The observations represent the first time that so-called 'heavy metals'-- elements heavier than hydrogen and helium -- have been spotted escaping from a hot Jupiter, a large, gaseous exoplanet very close to its star," NASA said in a statement on Thursday.
This is also the first time when the observations reveal elements heavier than hydrogen and helium ( the "heavy metals") escape from a hot Jupiter.
The planet has an upper atmosphere some 10 times hotter than any other world yet measured, which astronomers think is causing heavy metals to stream away from the planet.
It should be noted that exoplanet WASP-121b is located about 900 light-years away from Earth, and orbits a star slightly larger and hotter than our Sun. It was discovered in a star system in 2015 by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Since the beginning of the exoplanet era, when astronomers began finding planets outside our solar system, these so-called hot Jupiters have demanded attention.
Researchers further pointed out that hot Jupiters are mostly made up of hydrogen, and since Hubble is very sensitive to hydrogen, it's relatively easier for these planets to lose the gas. However, in the case of WASP-121b, the hydrogen and helium gas is outflowing and drags these metals with them, which makes for an efficient mechanism for mass loss.