For the first time, Scientists have caught a star in the act of devouring a planetBut it wasn’t a bite, it was a big bite.
Astronomers on Wednesday reported observations about the size of Jupiter, or the mass of gas engulfed by its star. The Sun-like star swelled over the years as it aged, eventually growing large enough to engulf the planet.
“If it’s any consolation, this will happen in about 5 billion years,” said co-author Morgan MacLeod of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
A constellation feast from thousands of years ago
This constellation feast 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, near the constellation AquilaThe star is about 10 billion years old.
As the star engulfed the planet, there was a burst of light, followed by a long stream of dust glowing brightly in cool infrared energy, the researchers noted.
debt: K. Miller/R. Injury (Caltech/IPAC)
Despite other stars swallowing planets and signs of their digestion, this is the first time a planet has been observed being swallowed, according to the paper. Nature.
Kishale T of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spotted the bright burst in 2020 while reviewing sky scans made by the Palomar Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (ITC). Further observations and data analysis are needed to unravel the mystery: Instead of a star swallowing its companion, it has swallowed its planet.
Considering the lifetime of a star is billions of years, the scene itself was very brief and almost produced in one bite, explained ITC’s Mansi Ghasliwal, who was involved in the study.
Astronomers don’t know if there are more planets orbiting the star at a safe distance. If so, it could take thousands of years for it to transform from a star into a second or third saucer, said Kishale D.
Now that they know what to look for, researchers will look for more cosmic dinner parties. They suspect that thousands of planets around other stars will suffer the same fate and, eventually, our own solar system.
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