April 17, 2024

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Astronomers have discovered a metallic scar on a cannibal star

Astronomers have discovered a metallic scar on a cannibal star

Having grown up in a world orbiting a gentle yellow star, it is easy for humanity to forget the incredible destructive potential of the fusion-powered monsters that smolder at the heart of every planetary system.

Stars have the ability to mop up barren nearby planets, or unleash devastating blasts of radiation on more distant worlds in the form of mass coronal ejections. In some extreme cases, they have been known to tear apart asteroids and large planets and devour them entirely.

Evidence of an act of cosmic cannibalism was recently discovered by a team of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, who found evidence of a massive metallic scar marking the light signature of a dying, Earth-sized star known as a white dwarf.

According to the authors of the new study published in Astrophysical Journal LettersThe metallic mass likely represents the remains of a planet, or possibly an asteroid about 500 kilometers across before it was torn apart by the star's devastating gravitational influence. Fluctuations in the strength of the metallic signal indicate that rocky debris is concentrated at selected points on the star's surface, which in turn indicates that the star's magnetic field played a major role in the feeding process.

“Surprisingly, the material was not evenly mixed on the star's surface, as theory predicted. Instead, this scar is a concentrated patch of planetesimal material, held in place by the same magnetic field that directed the falling fragments.” Professor John Landstreet, co-author of the study, from Canada Western University and Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, said. “Nothing like this has ever been seen before.”

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Its star could also devour Earth after it runs out of hydrogen reserves from the Sun that fuel the fusion reaction raging in its core, and begins its transformation into a red giant – a process that is expected to begin in about 5 billion years. Years of time. At that point, it will swell to a size that will swallow the inner planets of the solar system, including Mercury and Venus.

Meanwhile, astronomers use machines known as spectrographs to detect the light signatures of distant stars in order to discover the compositions of these giant stars and the nature of the planetary material they consume. For more cosmic news, why not read about the discovery of the brightest object in the universe, or have an existential crisis about the spiral formation of galaxies recently found lurking in deep space.

Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video game news for IGN. He has over eight years of experience covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and has absolutely no time to fool you. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer

Image credit: ISO