Astronomers Finally Spot a Planet-Munching Star
Scientists believe a dying star turns into a giant that engulfs all the planets within a certain radial distance. But they never witnessed it.
However, this time astronomers at Caltech, Harvard, MIT, and other universities have observed a star eating one of its orbiting planets as it develops into a red giant.
A star near the Aquila constellation, located at a distance of 12,000 light-years, experienced an outburst that increased its brightness by 100 times for more than ten days.
According to experts, this outburst was caused by a hot jovian planet falling into the core of its host star’s atmosphere.
That team of experts noticed the burst in May 2020, and it took around a year to figure out what happened. But thanks to the NEOWISE infrared telescope, which helps experts eliminate merging stars.
Only one-thousandth of the energy of a star-on-star collision and a stream of cold dust rather than hot plasma had been released during this outburst.
Experts predict that when the Sun dies around 5 billion years from now, the Earth and other inner Solar System planets will experience a similar end. This phenomenon is expected to occur throughout the cosmos.
In that sense, the astronomers provided support for their current theories. Previous research has only observed stars munching planets events before and after but has never witnessed stars mid-digestion.
Planet-consuming stars are still a mystery. However, this discovery helps to complete the picture.
According to some resources, the next wave of infrared-capable observatories will raise the possibility of discovering such events.