Astronomers have discovered that a star in the Pisces constellation is eating other planets. The star, which is known as RZ Piscium, is located about 550 lightyears away from Earth. The sun-like star has been disintegrating the planets in its galaxy that have been orbiting too close to it, leaving trails of planetary debris in its wake. As a result of the disintegration, there’s a ring of space dust surrounding the star, Science Daily reports.
“Based on our observations, it seems either that we’re seeing a fairly massive, gaseous planet being pulled apart by the star, or perhaps two gas-rich planets that have collided and been torn apart,” said astronomer Catherin Pilachowski, a co-author of a study on the phenomenon of RZ Piscium.
According to Science Daily, the researchers also found that the temperature of the star was about 9,600 degrees Fahrenheit which is only a little bit cooler than the sun in our solar system. This is an indication of the star’s youth, the team said. As a result, it puts out X-rays 1,000 times higher than the rate of our sun. The team also examined the amount of lithium in the star and found that it was about 30- to 50-million-years old.
Pilachowski added that observing the RZ Piscium has given them insight into how new solar systems were formed. The research shows us the fate of planets that don’t make it through the turmoil of the early stages of galactic development.
According to Science Daily, the gaseous bodies of space matter orbiting the star could have also been caused by the typically volatile orbits of young stars. The clouds of gas and dust cause the star to dim for extended periods of time as they are cascading into it and obstructing its light, NASA reports. The dimming periods normally last around two days and the star can become about 10 times dimmer during that period.
Is the star RZ Piscium eating its planets? https://t.co/5kcAsfLZGS— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) December 27, 2017
Astronomers knew this star was erratically dimming and brightening. They thought it might be young. Now they think RZ Piscium might be hungry. pic.twitter.com/HzR56JRFjJ
The team used three pieces of equipment to study the RZ Piscium and the planets around the star: the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton satellite, the Lick Observatory’s Shane 3-meter telescope in California and the 10-meter Keck I telescope at W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.
The full text of the study was published in The Astronomical Journal on Thursday, December 21.