Exoplanet COROT-7b was thought to be the most Earth-like exoplanet ever discovered due to its size, density and rocky features, but a new study suggests that the exoplanet carries a tail of debris, making it (in some respects) more like a comet.
Alessandro Mura and his team of astronomers at the Institute of Interplanetary Space Physics in Rome suggest that since the exoplanet is so close to its own sun, the intense atmosphere causes minerals on the planet to break and release charged particles into the atmosphere. These particles would likely be picked up by stellar winds and create a tail similar to those found trailing comets.
Though COROT-7b was once considered a likely place for alien life, the conjecture of the comet-like tail coupled with the exoplanet’s close distance to its sun would make the planet more like Mercury than Earth, a planet with an atmosphere thought to be too volatile for extraterrestrial life.
The tail hasn’t been confirmed as of yet, but Mura’s team feels it could be detected from ground-based telescopes, though there has been no mention of when such a task might take place.
(picture and story via Wired)