Scientists Are Observing An Exoplanet Of The Size Of Neptune As It Disintegrates

Aadhya Khatri - Feb 07, 2019

Scientists Are Observing An Exoplanet Of The Size Of Neptune As It Disintegrates

The disintegration is so rare that scientists must gather as much as they can before it ends

800 light years from us, a huge exoplanet, a planet located outside of our solar system, is undergoing a disintegrating process. It had been in that unstable state even before our astronomers found out about it in 2015.

K2-22b has ever since been the subject of observation for scientists to study the decaying process and hopefully, coming up with an answer to why some planets fall apart while they orbit. Details about the planet’s journey around its star can be found on The Astronomical Journal. Currently, a year on K2-22b is only 9 hours as it is breaking into pieces.

Neptune Sized Exoplanet Disintegrating 1200x630

The exoplanet is falling apart

Among about 3,800 extrasolar planets we know exist, only three are disintegrating, and K2-22b is one of them. This fact suggests theories. First, disintegration is especially rare, and second, it might not be so rare, but it happens too quickly. Either way, astronomers consider this as a golden opportunity.

This incident so rarely happens that astronomers hope they can learn as much as they can about the disintegration before the planet comes to its end. What are most interest them are the reason and the stages of the process.

As the number of subjects is so limited, scientists must rely largely on what they can pick up as they see the incident happens. What they found this time is a trail of matter that looks like a comet breaking itself from the body and something that looks like dust in front of it. These trails are also subject of intense study as the team of scientists who are in charge of K2-22b’s research said that further observation was needed to resolve their mystery.

What they found out so far is valuable enough but they want to take away as much information as possible from K2-22b. So they will keep going with their observation for the time being because who knows when such a process takes place again.


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