Observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory suggests that scientists may have for the first time seen a young star devouring a young planet or planets.“Computer simulations have predicted that planets could fall to a young star, but we have never noticed that,” said lead researcher Hans Moritz Guenther from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.
“If our interpretation of this data is right, this would be the first time that we directly observe a young celebrity devouring a planet or planets,” Guenther said.
The analysis, published in the Astronomical Journal, suggests that the parent star, located around 450 light years from Earth, is now in the process of separating the planetary debris resulting from collision of infant planetary bodies.
This discovery 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.
Every couple of decades, the star’s optical light has faded temporarily before Growing again. In the last few decades, astronomers observed that the star dimming more frequently, and for longer intervals.
The new study will explain what led to the star’s most recent dimming event – a collision of 2 baby planetary bodies, including at least one thing big enough to be a planet.
As the ensuing planetary debris dropped to the celebrity, it would create a thick veil of gas and dust, temporarily obscuring the star’s light.
The star’s previous dimming events may have been caused by comparable smash-ups, of either two planetary bodies or massive remnants of past collisions that met head-on and broke apart again.
“Much effort currently goes into learning about exoplanets and how they form, therefore it is obviously extremely important to observe how young planets could be ruined in interactions with their host stars and other young planets, and what variables determine if they survive,” Guenther said.