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Space Science

Stellar Blast Boils Away Some of a Planet's Atmosphere 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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Stellar Blast Boils Away Some of a Planet's Atmosphere

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