A dying star, also known as a white dwarf, killed the planets it was surrounded by! For perspective, think of our Sun and its planets!
A dying star has ripped apart an entire planetary system, reveal scientists. Dubbed as G238-44, this white dwarf is disrupting an entire planetary system by consuming the rock-metallic and icy material. This cosmic phenomenon known as cosmic cannibalism has been observed for the first time with the help of archival data from the Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA observatories. The astronomers gathered the findings based on the analysis of material captured by the atmosphere of the white dwarf. A white dwarf is usually very dense and about the size of a planet. It is formed when a low-mass star exhausts most of its nuclear fuel expands and then all that is left is a white dwarf.
Ted Johnson, lead researcher and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) graduate, said in a press statement, “We have never seen both of these kinds of objects accreting onto a white dwarf at the same time. By studying these white dwarfs, we hope to gain a better understanding of planetary systems that are still intact.”
“Life as we know it requires a rocky planet covered with a variety of elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen,” shared Benjamin Zuckerman, co-author of the study. He added that the abundances of the elements seen on the white dwarf seems like a rocky as well as a volatile-rich parent body. He called it “the first example we’ve found among studies of hundreds of white dwarfs.”
The findings also show that our Sun might go through this process and become a red giant before swallowing the nearby planets in about five billion years. It will lose its outer layers, forming a “nebula”. Only a pitiful shell of its former glory will remain- a white dwarf.