NASA’s space telescope just captured a dead star eating a planet
Astronomers sifted through data acquired by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and zeroed in on a star called G238-44.
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A team of astronomers looked at data from Hubble, along with other observations from various NASA telescopes, and studied the white dwarf star G238-44. Analysis researchers found evidence of a water reservoir after scanning the elemental properties of the white dwarf star. This led the team to believe that the star must be siphoning debris from nearby objects.
For those who don’t know, a white dwarf is a star that once looked like our sun, but has exhausted all of its nuclear energy. The closest white dwarf star to our sun is Sirius B, located about 8.6 light years away. As for G238-44, astronomers believe the corpse star is siphoning material from a nearby asteroid belt as well as icy celestial bodies, leading researchers to suggest that water may be more common in the stars. distant planetary systems than originally predicted.
Planetary system G238-44.
NASA writes that this research is particularly important because it is an excellent example of chaotic nature and planetary process systems. The space agency points to the evolution of this particular system, with G238-44 being a red giant star, transitioning to a white dwarf star where it loses its outer layers and impacts the orbit of all smaller objects. The orbits of some of these small objects are drastically altered, where they can then collide.
“After the red giant phase, the remaining white dwarf star is compact – no larger than Earth. The wayward planets eventually come very close to the star and experience powerful tidal forces tearing them apart, creating a gaseous, dusty disk that eventually falls onto the surface of the white dwarf,“Ted Johnson, Principal Investigator and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Notably, NASA states that G238-44 did not consume a large amount of mass, with researchers estimating that the dead star ate up mass proportional to an asteroid or small moon. Additionally, the researchers were able to detect the type of objects consumed by the star – one is likely a metal-rich asteroid and the other is an icy body, like a comet.
“The team measured the presence of nitrogen, oxygen, magnesium, silicon and iron, among other elements. The detection of iron in very high abundance is evidence of the metallic cores of telluric planets, such as Earth, Venus, Mars and Mercury. Unexpectedly high nitrogen abundances led them to conclude the presence of icy bodies,“wrote NASA.
“The best fit for our data was a nearly two-to-one mixture of mercury-like material and comet-like material, consisting of ice and dust. Metallic iron and nitrogen ice each suggest wildly different conditions for planetary formation. There is no known object in the solar system with so many of the two,“, explained Johnson.