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'Doomed' egg-shaped planet is heading for a much more abrupt death than anticipated

'Doomed' egg-shaped planet is heading for a much more abrupt death than anticipated

It'll go on a wild ride before it all ends, though.

When you think of a planet out in space, it could be any kind of color and perhaps surrounded by some funky rings - but generally you'll always assume it's spherical.

Well, you can throw that out the window, because there's actually an egg-shaped planet hurtling around a distant star out there, called WASP-12b.

It's about twice the size of Jupiter, making it a really big planet by the scale of our solar system, but it's been on a doomed track for a long time now, following a trajectory that won't end well.


WASP-12b is effectively spiralling around its local star, and will eventually collide with it, being destroyed in the process, and this will happen much sooner than we first anticipated, according to some new research.

Instead of the initially estimated 10 million year span that it might have left, a new paper indicates has less time. Lead author and University of Padova scientist Pietro Leonardi told "According to our calculations, the planet will crash into the star [WASP-12] in just 3 million years, an incredibly short amount of time considering the star only appears to be 3 billion years old".

The reason for that egg-like shape is actually more obvious than you might think, at least from the perspective of an amateur - it's so close to its sun that WASP-12b is basically under way more gravitational force than would be comfortable.

This means it's been pulled out of shape, and it's also pulled matter away from the planet to form a ring around it in space.

We've actually known about WASP-12b for a long while, since it was discovered back in 2008, and was notable not just for its shape but also its staggering surface temperature.

Anna Efetova / Getty
Anna Efetova / Getty

The proximity of its sun means that WASP-12b is referred to as a 'hot Jupiter' by NASA, with surface temperatures of around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,210 degrees Celsius).

Back in 2008, this made it the hottest planet we'd ever discovered, and while it's been outstripped since, it's still an unbelievably intense atmosphere.

This new research paper saw its authors take a long time to observe the planet as it moves around its star, taking 12 years to make 28 observations and drawing conclusions from what they demonstrated.

That's a great example of how astronomy doesn't always move as quickly as you might assume - it can sometimes take more than a decade to compile the data you need to take steps forward.

This won't be the end of it, either, as WASP-12b doubtless has more mysteries to help us delve into in the three million years that it has left in this universe.

Featured Image Credit: NASA