More recently, the space telescope Kepler - a hunter of planets suitable for keeping them on the microbial life - discovered exoplanet with unusual properties. Its orbit lies around the star KIC 12557548, which lies at a distance of 1,500 light-years from our solar system.
This exoplanet is a pretty small world with one of the shortest of the planetary orbits, turning around its parent star in just 15 hours. And, as scientists assume - it breaks down into dust.
In a new article in the Astrophysical Journal, astrophysicist Saul Rappaport, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his colleagues reported on the unusual pattern of light emission obtained in the study of KIC 12557548. Its light intensity is lowered with different every 15 hours.
Previously, scientists believed that this could be due to the dual system of planets: two planets orbiting each other, and simultaneously rotate around the star - just as the Moon orbits the Earth, which, in turn, revolves around our Sun. But there is a recognized fact that a short 15-hour orbit would simply not provide enough time for such a rotation of the two orbiting planetary bodies.
Thus, the team came up with a truly new hypothesis: perhaps this periodic variable intensity in the starlight may be due to the orbital facility with a highly elongated body shape. And the most obvious explanation for such a space object would be a planet with a stream of dust and debris following it, like the tail of a comet.
To test this hypothesis, the team built a model of the planet and the solar system, including its long tail of dust. The model showed that the dust has to be the most dense environment of the planet, and gradually reduced, as it would be dissipated into space. They also created a computer simulation of the changes in the brightness of the star, as did their exemplary planet passing in front of its star. These simulations have fully confirmed their theory.
They found that a tiny planet, size, approximately, with Mercury, and given the rate at which it loses mass of dust, lead to the complete destruction of the exoplanets, after about 100 million years. This is - a lot of time compared to the average human life expectancy, but it is - for the moment space.