Scientists catch sight of dying star's mealtime with Jupiter-sized gas giant for first timetext_fields
Scientists from MIT, Harvard University, and the California Institute of Technology have observed the moment a dying star devoured a gas giant planet the size of Jupiter. The event, which occurred in the Aquila constellation, is a sombre preview of what is likely to happen to Earth when the Sun evolves into a red giant and consumes the inner four planets of our solar system.
The team of scientists noted that the dying star, which was the size of the Sun, grew to a million times its original size as it ran out of fuel, before engulfing all the planets around it. The event was followed by a white-hot flash, followed by a longer-lasting colder signal, which was caused by the star consuming the gas giant planet.
Lead author of the study, Kishalay De, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, said that the process of a star puffing up with old age and growing as it runs out of fuel was something he had read about in high school. "It was surreal to realize that we may have found the first-ever example of catching a similar event in real-time," he said.
According to the researchers, the event took place around 12,000 light-years away and occurred in 2020. It took the team a year to understand the meaning of the white-hot flash.
The fact that the event was observed in real-time makes it significant as astronomers have previously observed stars before and after such an event, but this is the first time the process of a star devouring a planet has been observed.
"One of the key pieces of evidence we were trying to understand is that the outburst was producing dust in the lead up to and after the outburst," said De. "However, it takes time for gas to become cool and start condensing dust molecules."
The Sun-like star was estimated to be around 10 billion years old, indicating that the event is a natural part of the evolution of stars. The team hopes that the study will provide further insights into the evolution of stars and the eventual fate of planets.