Nasa Chandra X-Ray Observatory data indicates a young star consumed a planet

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (Nasa) Chandra X-ray Observatory made a few observations. These notes indicate that boffins may have, for the first time, seen a young star devouring a young planet or planets.

 

Lead researcher Hans Moritz Guenther from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research talked about computer simulations and interpretations.

Computer simulations have long predicted that planets can fall into a young star, but we have never before observed that. If our interpretation of the data is correct, this would be the first time that we directly observe a young star devouring a planet or planets.

- Guenther said

PARENT STAR AND INFANT PLANETS

According to the study published in the Astronomical Journal the parent star which is located about 450 light years from Earth is now in the process of devouring the planetary debris resulting from collision of infant planetary bodies.

This latest unraveling gives insight into the processes affecting the survival of infant planets.

Since 1937, astronomers are puzzled over the curious variability of the young star named RW Aur A.

Artist's illustration depicts destruction of a young planet or planets | Credits: Illustration: NASA/CXC/M Weiss; X-ray spectrum: NASA/CXC/MIT/H M Gunther

Every few decades, the star's optical light has faded briefly before brightening again. In recent years, astronomers observed the star dimming more frequently, and for longer periods.

Chandra was used to observe the star during an optically bright period in 2013, and then dim periods in 2015 and 2017, when a decrease in X-rays was also observed.

The new study could explain what caused the star's most recent dimming event - a collision of two infant planetary bodies, including at least one object large enough to be a planet.

As the resulting planetary debris fell into the star, it would generate a thick veil of dust and gas, temporarily obscuring the star's light.

Much effort currently goes into learning about exoplanets and how they form, so it is obviously very important to see how young planets could be destroyed in interactions with their host stars and other young planets, and what factors determine if they survive.

- Guenther said

The star's previous dimming events may have been caused by similar smash-ups, of either two planetary bodies or large remnants of past collisions that met head-on and broke apart again.

The scientists hope to make more observations of the star in the future, to see whether the amount of iron surrounding it has changed - a measure that could help researchers determine the size of the iron's source. For example, if about the same amount of iron appears in a year or two that may indicate it comes from a relatively massive source.

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