Active Star Blasts Planet With X-rays

New data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope suggest that high-energy radiation is evaporating about 5 million tons of matter from the planet every second. This result gives insight into the difficult survival path for some planets. The planet, known as CoRoT-2b, has a mass about three times that of Jupiter 1,000 times that of Earth and orbits its parent star, CoRoT-2a at a distance roughly 10 times the distance between Earth and the moon. Sebastian Schroeter of the University of Hamburg in Germany say that this planet is being absolutely fried by its star. What may be even stranger is that this planet may be affecting the behavior of the star that is blasting it.

Optical and X-ray data show that the CoRoT-2 system is estimated to be between about 100 million and 300 million years old, meaning that the star is fully formed. The Chandra observations show that CoRoT-2a is a very active star, with bright X-ray emission produced by powerful, turbulent magnetic fields. Such strong activity is usually found in much younger stars. According to Stefan Czesla from the University of Hamburg because this planet is so close to the star, it may be speeding up the star’s rotation and that could be keeping its magnetic fields active. If it wasn’t for the planet, this star might have left behind the volatility of its youth millions of years ago. Support for this idea come from observations of a likely companion star that orbits CoRoT-2a at a distance about a thousand times greater than the separation between the Earth and our sun. This star is not detected in X-rays, perhaps because it does not have a close-in planet like CoRoT-2b to cause it to stay active.