Astronomers have caught for the first time a star devouring one of its planets. This system is a kind of preview of Earth’s fate, as one day our own Sun will expand like this star and engulf the other inner planets.
Kisharai De Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues used the Zwicky Transient Facility in California to discover a strange burst of light, designated ZTF SLRN-2020, coming from a star about 13,000 light-years away. It became about 100 times brighter in about 10 days.
The explosion resembled a phenomenon called a red nova caused by the merger of two stars, but it was less bright and didn’t release as much energy. After collecting more observations with other telescopes, the researchers found that the data were consistent not with another star, but with a star devouring a gas giant that is at least 30 times the mass of Earth.
We knew that stars eat planets. It’s a thing,” says De. “But we’ve never caught a planet-eating star red-handed.”
This is expected to occur when stars like our Sun run out of hydrogen fuel and switch to nuclear fusion helium. In the process, the star becomes a red giant, and its atmosphere expands outward, engulfing the planet in the unfortunate orbit of being too close.In the case of ZTF SLRN-2020, this planet orbits its star while he is on Earth. took less than a day.
The Sun will begin to expand in about 5 billion years. “We’re actually watching the fate of our own planet happen to another unfortunate planet in real time.” However, since the Earth is much smaller than the Earth, the effect is less dramatic. [the planet] teeth. “
Now that we know what a planetary engulfment looks like, it will be much easier to search for and study them in more detail, says De. I calculated that it should happen about once. So we can find more planets that are being eaten up by stars and continue to monitor them to elucidate the details of the process. The end of the future of the earth.