Located some 600 light-years away, the planet WASP-12b is being swallowed up by its sun. Scientists say that the gas giant may only have another 10 million years left before it is completely devoured.
The hottest known planet in our galaxy is being stretched into the shape of a football and rapidly consumed by its parent star, new observations from the Hubble Space Telescope show.
WASP-12b is so close to its sun-like star that it is superheated to nearly 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit and stretched into an elongated shape by enormous tidal forces.
Because of those phenomenal forces, the planet's atmosphere has ballooned to nearly three times Jupiter's radius and is pouring material onto its parent star. WASP-12b is 40 percent more massive than Jupiter.
This effect of matter exchange between two stellar objects is commonly seen in close binary star systems, but this is the first time it has been seen so clearly for a planet. The system was observed with the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) instrument on Hubble.
"We see a huge cloud of material around the planet which is escaping and will be captured by the star. We have identified chemical elements never before seen on planets outside our own solar system," said team leader Carole Haswell of The Open University in the United Kingdom.