The first planet discovered by the Kepler space telescope is crashing into its star.
Launched in 2009, Kepler’s mission is to find exoplanets by watching them pass in front of their stars.The telescope’s first potential planet discovery was initially thought to be a false alarm, but in 2019, astronomer Ashley Chontos and colleagues prove true (SN: 3/5/19). The planet was officially named Kepler-1658b.
Now, Chontos and others have sealed the fate of Kepler-1658b. “It’s tragically spiraling into its host star,” said Chontos, now at Princeton University. Earth has about 2.5 million years left before it faces a fiery death. “It will be swallowed eventually. The Death Star.”
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The planet, about the size of Jupiter, is so hot that it orbits its star every three days. In follow-up observations from 2019 to 2022, the planet has been transiting the star earlier than expected.
Combined data from Kepler and other telescopes show The planet is slowly approaching its starChontos and colleagues reported on December 19 at The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“You can see that the interval between transits is shrinking at a rate of 131 milliseconds per year, very slowly but very steadily,” said astrophysicist Shreyas Visspragada of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. .
Doesn’t sound like much. But if this trend continues, Earth will only have 2 or 3 million years left. “For something that’s been around for 2 to 3 years billion Years, that’s short,” Vissapragada said. If Earth’s lifespan is 100 human years, then it has just over a month left.
Studying the death of Kepler-1658b will help explain the life cycles of similar planets. “Understanding the actual physics of how orbits shrink over time, we can better understand the fate of all these planets,” Vissapragada said.