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Astronomers catch a star in the act of devouring a planet

jamstar7 (694492) writes | about 2 years ago

Space 0

jamstar7 (694492) writes "Astronomers have witnessed the first evidence of a planet's destruction by its aging star as it expands into a red giant.

"A similar fate may await the inner planets in our solar system, when the Sun becomes a red giant and expands all the way out to Earth's orbit some five-billion years from now," said Alex Wolszczan, from Penn State, University, who led a team which found evidence of a missing planet having been devoured by its parent star. Wolszczan also is the discoverer of the first planet ever found outside our solar system.

The planet-eating culprit, a red-giant star named BD+48 740 is older than the Sun and now has a radius about eleven times bigger than our Sun.

The evidence the astronomers found was a massive planet in a surprising highly elliptical orbit around the star — indicating a missing planet — plus the star's wacky chemical composition.

5 billion years or so is a long way off, so it's likely none of us has to worry about it, but still, watching a star eating its own planets is not only cool in its own right, but gives you food for thought as to how to keep the human species going long after the Sun starts going off the main sequence into red gianthood. And of course, some more cash into astronomers' and physicists' hands now can give us a closer ballpark number of when this event is going to happen. It's all in the math..."
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