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Astronomers have found a new planet roughly the size of Neptune using the Hubble Space Telescope. And, the planet is evaporating at a rate 100 times faster compared to the previously identified exoplanet of similar size.
The findings enhance astronomer's knowledge about how planets evolve. The findings can be seen in the journal of Astronomy & Astrophysics. The speed and distance at which planets circle around their respective stars also determine the life of the planet.
"This is the smoking gun that planets can lose a significant fraction of their entire mass," said David Sing, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in the US. "GJ 3470b is losing more of its mass than any other planet we have seen so far; in only a few billion years from now, half of the planet may be gone," he added.
Planets like "super" Earths and "hot" Jupiters rotate around their respective blazing stars and therefore have a high temperature, which causes the outer layer to blow away. While these larger Jupiter-sized and smaller Earth-sized exoplanets are plentiful, Neptune-sized exoplanets are very rare.
Researchers believe that these Neptune-sized exoplanets lose their atmosphere and become smaller sized. GJ 3470b is 96 light-years away and orbits around a red dwarf star. Hubble found out that the exoplanet has lost more mass and had a smaller exosphere compared to the previously studied exoplanet of the same size.
Since the GJ 3470b is only 2 billion years old it has more power and radiation than the GJ 436b which was between 4 billion and 8 billion years old. The researchers believe that the GJ 3470b has already lost up to 35 percent of its total mass and might be stripped of all the gas in a few billion years.
"We're starting to better understand how planets are shaped and what properties influence their overall makeup," Sing said.