Saturday, June 22, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Seen for the first time: Star devours planet

Published 8 May 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Much remains unexplored when it comes to planet-eating stars.

For the first time ever, astrophysicists have observed a star devouring a planet. All that remained of the planet, which was about the size of Jupiter, was dust in space. Earth is expected to suffer the same fate, but only in five billion years.

Kishalay De, an astrophysicist at MIT in the US, searched for binary stars using data from an observatory in California where he looked for spots in the sky that have drastically increased in brightness. If it is brighter, it is a sign that two stars have merged.

When De looked at the data from the observatory, he found one event from 2020 that stood out. Where it looked like two stars had merged, it turned out that the amount of energy was very low, only a thousandth of what it should have been. Instead of hot plasma, which also indicates the merging of stars, there was only dust. The dust was from a planet, they concluded.

I was indeed surprised when we connected the dots together, De said, according to Science News.

The fact that stars can swallow planets has been known for some time, but this is the first time it has actually been observed. The star is located in the Milky Way, but is about 12 000 light years away. Astrophysicists believe that it is in the early stages of becoming a so-called red giant, which is something that happens late in the life of stars. It was estimated to be about 10 billion years old, that is twice as old as the sun.

There is still a lot that is unexplored about planet-eating stars, but research is progressing and they hope to discern more observations using large infrared cameras. They believe that our Sun will also evolve into a red giant and devour the Earth, but only in about five billion years.

Because the Earth is much smaller than Jupiter, the effects will certainly be more subdued… so finding Earth-like engulfments will be challenging, but we are actively working on ideas to identify them, De says.

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