Image: CoRoT-2a photo and illustration
NASA / CXC (Illustration by M. Weiss)
This graphic contains an image (left) and illustration (right) showing a nearby star named CoRoT-2a and an orbiting planet known as CoRoT-2b. The image depicts X-rays detected by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (in purple) of CoRoT-2a along with optical and infrared data of the field of view in which it is found. CoRoT-2b, which is not seen in this image, orbits extremely closely to the star. In fact, the separation between the star and planet is only about 3 percent of the distance between Earth and the sun. The Chandra data indicate that the planet is being blasted by X-rays with such intensity that some 5 million tons of material are being eroded from the planet every second.
updated 9/13/2011 6:53:50 PM ET 2011-09-13T22:53:50

A nearby star is drubbing its close-orbiting planet with a barrage of X-rays 100,000 times more powerful than what the Earth receives from the sun, a new study has found.

That intense, high-energy radiation is blasting about 5 million tons of matter from the gigantic planet into space every second, researchers said. They made the observations using NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile.

"This planet is being absolutely fried by its star," said study lead author Sebastian Schroeter, of the University of Hamburg in Germany, in a statement. "What may be even stranger is that this planet may be affecting the behavior of the star that is blasting it."

A nearby alien solar system
The star, which is located about 880 light-years from Earth, is known as Corot-2a. Optical and X-ray data suggest that Corot-2a is between 100 million and 300 million years old, meaning it's fully formed, researchers said.

The star's one known planet, called Corot-2b, was discovered in 2008 by the French Space Agency's Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits (Corot) satellite. Corot-2b is about three times as massive as Jupiter, and it orbits very close to its parent star — just 3 percent of the Earth-sun distance (which is 93 million miles).

The new Chandra observations show that the star is surprisingly active, with bright X-ray emission generated by powerful magnetic fields. Such strong activity is usually found in much younger stars, researchers said.

The huge, close-in alien planet may be playing a role.

"Because this planet is so close to the star, it may be speeding up the star's rotation and that could be keeping its magnetic fields active," said study co-author Stefan Czesla, also from the University of Hamburg. "If it wasn't for the planet, this star might have left behind the volatility of its youth millions of years ago."

A companion star?
Other observations suggest that Corot-2a might have a stellar companion that orbits at about 1,000 times the Earth-sun distance. Instruments have not picked up an X-ray signal from this star — perhaps because it does not have a close-orbiting planet to kick it into high gear, researchers said.

  1. Space news from NBCNews.com
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

Corot-2b appears to be unusually inflated for a planet in its position. That could be another result of the X-ray barrage, researchers said, but they're not sure yet.

"We're not exactly sure of all the effects this type of heavy X-ray storm would have on a planet, but it could be responsible for the bloating we see in Corot-2b," Schroeter said. "We are just beginning to learn about what happens to exoplanets in these extreme environments."

The results were published in the August issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Follow Space.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments