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WASP-12b in Planets from Hell

WASP-12b is an extrasolar planet orbiting the star WASP-12, discovered by the SuperWASP planetary transit survey. Its discovery was announced on April 1, 2008.[1] Due to its extremely close orbit to its star, it has one of the lowest densities for exoplanets ('inflated' by the flux of energy from the star). The planet takes only a little over a day to orbit the star, in contrast to 365 days for the Earth to orbit the Sun. Its distance from the star (approximately 2,115,000 miles) is only 1/44 the Earth’s distance from the Sun, with an eccentricity the same as Jupiter's. On 3 December 2013, scientists working with the Hubble Space Telescope reported detecting water in the atmosphere of the exoplanet.[2][3]

In July, 2014, NASA announced finding very dry atmospheres on three exoplanets (HD 189733b, HD 209458b, WASP-12b) orbiting sun-like stars.[4]


File:WASP-12b a Hot, Carbon-Rich Planet.jpg

Artist's impression of the hot, carbon-rich planet WASP-12b losing mass to its parent star. The color and atmospheric features of the planet are not known.

The planet is so close to WASP-12 that the star's tidal forces are distorting it into an egg shape and pulling away its atmosphere at a rate of about 10−7 MJ (about 189 quadrillion tonnes) per year.[5] The so-called "tidal heating", and the proximity of the planet to its star, combine to bring the surface temperature to more than Template:Convert/K.

On May 20, 2010, the Hubble Space Telescope spotted WASP-12b being "consumed" by its star. Scientists had been aware that stars could consume planets; however, this was the first time such an event had been observed so clearly. NASA has estimated that the planet has 10 million years left of its life.[6]

The Hubble Space Telescope observed the planet by using its Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). The observations have confirmed predictions published in Nature in February 2009 by Peking University's Shu-lin Li. The planet's atmosphere has ballooned to be nearly three times the radius of Jupiter, while the planet itself sometimes has 40% more mass than Jupiter.

Carbon content[]

Recent evidence indicates that WASP-12b has an enhanced carbon-to-oxygen ratio, significantly higher than that of the Sun, indicating that it is a carbon-rich gas giant. The C/O ratio compatible with observations is about 1, while the solar value is 0.54. The C/O ratios suggest that carbon-rich planets may have formed in the star system.[7] One of the researchers behind that study commented that "with more carbon than oxygen, you would get rocks of pure carbon, such as diamond or graphite".[8]

The published study states: "Although carbon-rich giant planets like WASP-12b have not been observed, theory predicts myriad compositions for carbon-dominated solid planets. Terrestrial-sized carbon planets, for instance, could be dominated by graphite or diamond interiors, as opposed to the silicate composition of Earth."[7] These remarks have led the media to pick up on the story,[9] some even calling WASP-12b a "diamond planet".[10]

The carbon content of the planet is located within its atmosphere, in the form of carbon monoxide and methane. The study appears in the journal Nature.[11]

Candidate satellite[]

Russian astronomers studying a curve of change of shine of the planet observed splashes of light indicative of an extrasolar moon orbiting the planet.[12]

See also[]


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named wasp
  2. Staff (3 December 2013). "Hubble Traces Subtle Signals of Water on Hazy Worlds". NASA. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  3. Mandell, Avi M.; Haynes, Korey; Sinukoff, Evan; Madhusudhan, Nikku; Burrows, Adam; Deming, Drake (3 December 2013). "Exoplanet Transit Spectroscopy Using WFC3: WASP-12 b, WASP-17 b, and WASP-19 b". Astrophysical Journal 779 (2): 128. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/779/2/128. Bibcode2013ApJ...779..128M. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  4. Harrington, J.D.; Villard, Ray (July 24, 2014). "RELEASE 14-197 - Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets". NASA. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  5. Li, Shu-lin; Miller, N.; Lin, Douglas N. C.; Fortney, Jonathan J. (2010). "WASP-12b as a prolate, inflated and disrupting planet from tidal dissipation". Nature 463 (7284): 1054–1056. doi:10.1038/nature08715. PMID 20182506. Bibcode2010Natur.463.1054L 
  6. Hubble Finds a Star Eating a Planet 2010-05-20. Retrieved on 2010-12-10.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Madhusudhan, N.; Harrington, J.; Stevenson, K. B.; Nymeyer, S.; Campo, C. J.; Wheatley, P. J.; Deming, D.; Blecic, J. et al. (2010). "A high C/O ratio and weak thermal inversion in the atmosphere of exoplanet WASP-12b". Nature 469 (7328): 64–67. doi:10.1038/nature09602. PMID 21150901. Bibcode2011Natur.469...64M. 
  8. "Carbon-Rich Planet: A Girl's Best Friend?". U.S. News & World Report. 10 December 2010. 
  9. Lorianna De Giorgio (10 December 2010). "Carbon-rich planet could house diamonds". Toronto Star. 
  10. Template:Cite news
  11. Template:Cite news
  12. Российские астрономы впервые открыли луну возле экзопланеты (in Russian) - "Studying of a curve of change of shine of WASP-12b has brought to the Russian astronomers unusual result: regular splashes were found out.<...> Though stains on a star surface also can cause similar changes of shine, observable splashes are very similar on duration, a profile and amplitude that testifies for benefit of exomoon existence."

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