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Stellar Blast Boils Away Some of a Planet's Atmosphere

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the cloudy-with-a-chance-of-destruction dept.

Space 34

The Bad Astronomer writes "Using a combination of Hubble and Swift observations, astronomers have apparently witnessed some of a planet's atmosphere being peeled away by a powerful stellar blast. HD 189733b orbits its star just 4 million km from the surface, and a few hours after Swift detected a big X-ray flare from the star, Hubble data revealed a big jump in hydrogen absorption as the planet transited the star. This indicates the planet's atmosphere was blasted off by the flare to the tune of a thousand tons of hydrogen per second. The planet is so hot it probably already loses a substantial amount of air to space all the time, but this spike is the first time a change in an exoplanet's atmosphere has been detected."

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Athmosphere or air? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40484681)

"The planet is so hot it probably already loses a substantial amount of air to space all the time."

What is this "air" they are talking about?

Re:Athmosphere or air? (3, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#40484739)

I think it's all just hot air.

Re:Athmosphere or air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40484805)

Don't go onto a planet cowboy neil has been on. WHOOO!

Re:Athmosphere or air? (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 2 years ago | (#40484945)

you are more right than you think you are

4 mil km (4, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#40484695)

4 million km is roughly 0.02 AU or 1/10th the mean distance of Mercury from the Sun

It someone got that close to me, I'd let them have it too.

Re:4 mil km (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40485245)

Lots of us are a whole lot closer to you than that.

Re:4 mil km (2)

HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) | about 2 years ago | (#40485715)

Sounds like you'd better duck then, or he's gonna blast the hydrogen right off your face.

Re:4 mil km (1)

EdIII (1114411) | about 2 years ago | (#40489957)

Just be smart about it and time your visits to be just after the intake of large amounts of hot pockets. You'll be at less risk for being too near when one of the explosions erupts.

Re:4 mil km (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40485847)

I look forward to the day we have spacecraft to go to places like this, by trans-light speed (and somehow feed signals back to us) just imagine watching something like this on a big screen.

Re:4 mil km (4, Funny)

Tarlus (1000874) | about 2 years ago | (#40486131)

I look forward to the day when we have lavish restaurants stationed nearby so that we can watch while we dine.

Re:4 mil km (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40486333)

As well as some rampant abuse of time travel so the blast always happens during dessert.

Re:4 mil km (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#40488771)

Just do what they did in the (iirc) second episode of the rebooted Dr. Who and use gravity satellites to control when it happens and how long it takes.

Re:4 mil km (3, Insightful)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 2 years ago | (#40486635)

I wonder if I'd ever be able to afford such a restaurant. Wait, I just found a penny.

Is the atmosphere burning? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#40484835)

...or the last lifeboat of the Splugorthian empire disintegrating in a desperate attempt to evacuate the brave historians who dared to save their Elranythic relics?

I've heard this story before (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40484883)

The next morning the skies are on fire from the solar flare. John fights his way through the chaotic streets of Boston, arriving at his estranged father's home. They embrace as the solar flare burns away the atmosphere and incinerates the surface of the Earth, destroying all life on the planet. []

Oh, that is what it was. (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#40484931)

Just some time back I felt a great disturbance in force. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I shrugged it off as a side effect of the burrito I had from Taco Bell last night. Looks like it was more than that.

Re:Oh, that is what it was. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40485339)

Star Wars sucks. You're an idiot.

Re:Oh, that is what it was. (2)

EdIII (1114411) | about 2 years ago | (#40490025)

You know that is probably the single greatest benefit of being a Jedi. You could pass the nastiest gas in a crowded elevator (turbo lift, whatever) and just wave your hands and nobody would remember you did it.

It could happen here (4, Informative)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 2 years ago | (#40484937)

When stars go supernova, they sometimes release large Gamma Ray Bursts which are far more devastating to an atmosphere than X-rays. GRBs can cover great distances too. Currently a star named WR 104 which is 8000 light years from earth seems to be pointing straight at us. If it goes GRB when it explodes, we may be in for trouble. There's enough energy there (even at that insance distance) to cause wide spread extinction on the planet.

Interestingly enough, it may have already happened but the light from it, and/or the GRB, hasn't gotten here yet. []

Re:It could happen here (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#40485085)

I've heard theories that one of the Earth's mass extinction events may have been caused by a glancing blow from a GRB. The side facing away from the GRB would be mostly fine in the short term, but the boiling of the oceans on the other side would have much longer term implications for the entire planet.

Re:It could happen here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40485795)

Gamma rays at that distance wouldn't boil the oceans and the planet certainly wouldn't stop them either. The danger from gamma ray bursts are to the atmosphere and death on the cellular level due to the destruction of genetic materials.

Re:It could happen here (4, Informative)

rleibman (622895) | about 2 years ago | (#40485157)

(from wikipedia) Newer spectroscopic data suggest that WR 104's rotational axis is more likely angled 30–40 from Earth... so we're ok, something else will kill us.

Re:It could happen here (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#40485417)

At that distance a few minutes of angle off the axis and it could miss us

Re:It could happen here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40485395)

the light from it, and/or the GRB
Gamma rays are light.

Re:It could happen here (2)

steelfood (895457) | about 2 years ago | (#40487037)

It'll arrive this year on December 21st.

Re:It could happen here (1)

Teresita (982888) | about 2 years ago | (#40488863)

There's enough energy there (even at that insance distance) to cause wide spread extinction on the planet.

Yeah, mass extinction events happen all the time. Every hundred million years of so. I better get my gamma ray shelter ready now.

Expansion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40485079)

Does this mean we should be looking for another planet for our intergalactic expansion?

Re:Expansion (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#40485093)

Just means this one comes pre-nuked-from-orbit so we can move right in.

Re:Expansion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40486577)

No no no! She's-a still okay. A little rough around the edges, but a little paint, put a few trees in the corner, she look-a nice! *cough*untilthetreesburnup*cough*. I mean, sure the neighbor is kind of close, but you get a really good deal on BBQ and suntanning. And who doesn't want that, am I right?

Douchebag Sun (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40485637)

Planet: "Man I'm hot."

Sun: "Aww sorry. Would you like me to cool you down?"

Planet: "Yes, please!"

Sun: *faaaaart*

Planet: "GAH no you asshole!"

Sun: "Hahahahaha dweeb!"

Re:Douchebag Sun (1)

din0 (2608929) | about 2 years ago | (#40492987)

Oblig. Perry Bible Fellowship []

Global Warming! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40486703)

Idiots, it was obviously global warming. This "stellar blast" was just a coincidence!

God and random universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40488507)

Doesn't the universe seem pointless? What is the point of that planet being that close to the star. It makes the universe seem random and unplanned and desolate. I wonder if more people will become atheists the more we know about the universe. Why would God create such a wasteful design?

Re:God and random universe (1)

meglon (1001833) | about 2 years ago | (#40492961)

Well, you have to have the real story, then it makes sense.

Popular version: Genesis 1:31-2:2

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

This, however, is just revisionist history of what really happened, which includes a massive pool party on the night of the 6th day, a marathon game of billiards with a near infinite sized table, 12.7 gallons of corn liquor per entity, 4 very large turtles, a giraffe in a paisley tutu, a 14 hour raid in EQ that never made it past the first room (not enough healers, too many rangers), jello shots off someone that may, or may not have been related to Marie Osmond, 3 hours of some nameless entity playing the intro cords to Sweet Home Alabama over and over again, 19 hours constant play of Blondie's "Glass Houses" album, and 14 minutes under the covers with this hot chick (after the aforementioned alcohol had been consumed) named Billy Bob.

So, as you can see, there may very well have been a point, but everyone still has too big of a hangover to make out what exactly that point might have been.

And let me tell you, that seventh morning God had to end his work and rest cause absolutely no one in his condition could do anything after that fiasco, except Billy Bob, who had left earlier than anyone else had woke up... for which they were all thank full, and vowed never to speak of again.
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