This Planet Burns Hotter Than Most Stars

The phrase “hot mess” has never been more appropriate. Astronomers have found a massive, wildly whirling, disintegrating exoplanet that reaches a burning 7800°F. The team described the bizarre gas giant in the journal Nature.

The Hubble and other big space telescopes tend to get all the glory, but smaller instruments here on Earth are working just as hard. The newly discovered exoplanet, called KELT-9b, was named for the humble scope that spotted it—a KELT, or Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope.

Located 650 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus (pictured here), KELT-9b is one strange celestial body.

Telescope image of the Cygnus Loop Nebula.
Part of the constellation Cygnus.

With nearly three times the mass of Jupiter, it's gargantuan, and it’s locked in breakneck orbit around the star HD 195689 (a.k.a. KELT-9). The exoplanet is so close to the star and moving so fast that one full transit around HD 195689—what we think of as a year—takes less than two days.

The planet is also tidally locked to its star, the same way we only ever see one side of our Moon. And the side of KELT-9b that faces HD 195689 is on permanent, hellish blast. It’s so hot that if you somehow managed to get water onto its surface, the water would immediately dissociate into its component molecules of hydrogen and oxygen.

Co-lead author Scott Gaudi of The Ohio State University says he and his colleagues are just boggled by the discovery.

"It's a planet by any of the typical definitions based on mass, but its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we've ever seen just because of the temperature of its day side," he said in a statement.

But KELT-9b’s blazing, wild ride is not destined to last. The paper authors say the exoplanet is likely already shedding mass like a comet as it moves. And if this gradual melting doesn’t destroy it, its ravenous sun will swallow the peculiar, scalding planet like a cookie straight out of the oven.

"The long-term prospects for life, or real estate for that matter, on KELT-9b are not looking good,” co-lead author Keivan Stassun of Vanderbilt University said in the statement.

This is too bad for KELT-9b, but it could be very good for science.

"As we seek to develop a complete picture of the variety of other worlds out there,” Stassun said, “it's important to know not only how planets form and evolve, but also when and under what conditions they are destroyed."

Gaudi says the discovery is a reminder that we still have a lot to learn, and that we need to think bigger.

“Mother Nature is way more imaginative than we are,” he told CNN. “And anytime you find something this weird, it broadens your horizons of what nature can possibly be like."

MARS Bioimaging
The World's First Full-Color 3D X-Rays Have Arrived
MARS Bioimaging
MARS Bioimaging

The days of drab black-and-white, 2D X-rays may finally be over. Now, if you want to see what your broken ankle looks like in all its full-color, 3D glory, you can do so thanks to new body-scanning technology. The machine, spotted by BGR, comes courtesy of New Zealand-based manufacturer MARS Bioimaging.

It’s called the MARS large bore spectral scanner, and it uses spectral molecular imaging (SMI) to produce images that are fully colorized and in 3D. While visually appealing, the technology isn’t just about aesthetics—it could help doctors identify issues more accurately and provide better care.

Its pixel detectors, called “Medipix” chips, allow the machine to identify colors and distinguish between materials that look the same on regular CT scans, like calcium, iodine, and gold, Buzzfeed reports. Bone, fat, and water are also differentiated by color, and it can detect details as small as a strand of hair.

“It gives you a lot more information, and that’s very useful for medical imaging. It enables you to do a lot of diagnosis you can’t do otherwise,” Phil Butler, the founder/CEO of MARS Bioimaging and a physicist at the University of Canterbury, says in a video. “When you [have] a black-and-white camera photographing a tree with its leaves, you can’t tell whether the leaves are healthy or not. But if you’ve got a color camera, you can see whether they’re healthy leaves or diseased.”

The images are even more impressive in motion. This rotating image of an ankle shows "lipid-like" materials (like cartilage and skin) in beige, and soft tissue and muscle in red.

The technology took roughly a decade to develop. However, MARS is still working on scaling up production, so it may be some time before the machine is available commercially.

[h/t BGR]

ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
Look Closely—Every Point of Light in This Image Is a Galaxy
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Even if you stare closely at this seemingly grainy image, you might not be able to tell there’s anything to it besides visual noise. But it's not static—it's a sliver of the distant universe, and every little pinprick of light is a galaxy.

As Gizmodo reports, the image was produced by the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, a space-based infrared telescope that was launched into orbit in 2009 and was decommissioned in 2013. Created by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) and Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS), it looks out from our galaxy toward the North Galactic Pole, a point that lies perpendicular to the Milky Way's spiral near the constellation Coma Berenices.

A close-up of a view of distant galaxies taken by the Herschel Space Observatory
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Each point of light comes from the heat of dust grains between different stars in a galaxy. These areas of dust gave off this radiation billions of years before reaching Herschel. Around 1000 of those pins of light belong to galaxies in the Coma Cluster (named for Coma Berenices), one of the densest clusters of galaxies in the known universe.

The longer you look at it, the smaller you’ll feel.

[h/t Gizmodo]


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