A Neptune-size planet appears to be masquerading as a comet, with a gargantuan stream of gas flowing behind it like a comet’s tail.
The bizarre find is the first of its kind ever discovered by astronomers. The strange, cometlike planet, known as GJ 436b, is orbiting a red dwarf star and is about 22 times as massive as Earth. Astronomers detected the giant gas cloud around the planet using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.
“I was astonished by the mere size of the cloud of gas escaping from the planet,” said study lead author David Ehrenreich, an astronomer at the observatory of the University of Geneva in Switzerland. . . .