The Hubble Space Telescope has detected a planet with a comet like tail. Roughly 153 light years from Earth, the planet HD 209458b was discovered. The gas giant planet is bombarded by solar winds as it orbit’s it’s star at break-neck speeds. Astronomers say the planet orbits it’s star once every 3.5 days, compared to Mercury which orbits our Sun every 88 days.
The result of this high-speed transit is the planet is losing it’s gaseous mass and creating a comet-like tail. Scientists say the surface temperature may exceed 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Astronomer Cynthia Froning of the University of Colorado said “This planet is getting blasted by the star and that’s blowing the atmosphere off.”
The Hubble Space Telescope has detected many planets during the course of it’s operation. All have been gas giants, like our own Jupiter. HD 209458b is unique in that it actually transits across the face of it’s star as seen by Hubble.
The solar wind is so strong that the planet has a comet like tail as it’s atmosphere is blown off. Just as in the case of comets here that pass near the Earth, the tail is the result of the solar wind impacting on the icy surface as comets circle our own Sun. It is estimated that this mysterious world is losing some 80,000 pounds of mass a day and may disappear in a trillion years. Another planet discovered by Hubble, Wasp-18b, about 325 light years from Earth, is also a gas giant extremely close to it’s star. Wasp-18b is said to be ten times large than Jupiter and yet orbits it’s star once a day!