A team of US-Polish-Spanish astronomers made a major discovery this week when they found a planet being devoured by its own star. The discover showcases the fate that will eventually become a reality on Earth in just a few billion short years.
The astronomers published their work in Astrophysical Journal Letters where they also claim one planet orbiting the expanding sun was put into its orbit by the neighboring plant that was likely destroyed by the expansion process.
The team of astronomers were studying the star BD+48 740, which is one of a stellar class known as red giants. The group made their discovery with the help of the Hobby Eberly telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Texas.
According to scientists, they realized the destroyed planet was missing because of the star’s strange chemical composition. Using spectroscopic analysis, the team learned that BD+48 740 contained high levels of lithium, a rare element created 14 billion years ago during the big bang. Stars absorb and destroy lithium very quickly, so its high abundance of the material suggests the star absorbed it by eating a planet.
According to the report:
“In the case of BD+48 740, it is probable that the lithium production was triggered by a mass the size of a planet that spiralled into the star and heated it up while the star was digesting it.”
Team member Eva Villaver of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain tells the BBC:
“Catching a planet in the act of being devoured by a star is an almost improbable feat to accomplish because of the comparative swiftness of the process, but the occurrence of such a collision can be deduced from the way it affects the stellar chemistry.”
“The highly elongated orbit of the massive planet we discovered around this lithium-polluted red giant star is exactly the kind of evidence that would point to the star’s recent destruction of its now-missing planet.”
Stars eating planets: That’s definitely one of the more amazing ways to go.