A team of astronomers spotted a newborn hot Jupiter 1,100 light-years away. Although it is among the youngest planets ever discovered, aged only two million years old, the planet called “PTFO8-8695 b” is slowly being torn apart every 11 hours by the star it orbits.

Although nicknamed Jupiter, the planet is actually twice the mass of our own Jupiter. Moreover, the team is not entirely sure if this is a real planet and how long it takes before it dies, but their evidence shows that it is among the youngest planets found. These findings have been published online on June 8 in The Astrophysical Journal.

“We don’t know the ultimate fate of this planet,” Johns-Krull said. “It likely formed farther away from the star and has migrated into a point where it’s being destroyed,” says lead author Christopher Johns-Krull, an astronomer at Rice University. “We know there are close-orbiting planets around middle-aged stars that are presumably in stable orbits.”

Jupiter

An artist’s impression of likely new giant planet PTFO8-8695 b. Image by A. Passwaters/Rice University

The team believes that the planet is surrounded by circumstellar hydrogen gas, a sign of its relatively young age. Its hydrogen emissions are almost as bright as the emission from its star. “There’s no way something confined to the planet’s surface could produce that effect,” adds Johns-Krull. “The gas has to be filling a much larger region where the gravity of the planet is no longer strong enough to hold on to it. The star’s gravity takes over, and eventually the gas will fall onto the star.”

Over the years, astronomers found more than 3,300 exoplanets. Almost all of these orbit around middle-aged stars so this newborn Jupiter is the first one to show that planets a few million years old exist.

Apparently, finding young planets is a complicated job. These planets are not bright enough to be detected by telescopes currently used in the studies about the universe.