Scientists believe that for the first time they captured direct evidence that a star feasted on its own planet. RW Aur is a binary system that is located in the Auriga constellation 450 light-years from Earth and has long plagued astronomers. Light from one of the stars, RW Aur A, is repeatedly dimmed and flashed every few decades. But recently, these cycles have occurred more frequently and lasted longer.
Now, a group of researchers thinks they might know the reason. Using data collected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, they found evidence of a mysterious “absorber” that absorbed the light of the star. The absorber may be located in the inner disk of the star and consists of the remaining pieces of the young planet, which collide with each other as the gravitational pull of the star pulls them in.
“Computer simulations have long predicted that planets will fall into a young star, but we have never observed this,” said Hans Moritz Guenther, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is in charge of the study.
“If our interpretation of the data is correct, then this will be our first direct observation of young stars that devour planets or planets.”
It explains the strange period of sputum and brightness, because the previous events may come from the large pieces of debris remaining in the original collision, which smashed and split each other to produce more fragments.
“This is speculation, but if you have two collisions, it is likely that they may enter some rogue tracks later, which increases the likelihood that they will hit other things again,” Guenther said.
Iron, good for you, not so much for others
This idea also helps scientists explain another strange property: the planet’s disk contains too much iron. The level is not as high as on Earth or even on the moon, but higher than the typical environment around the stars.
“Here, we see more iron, at least ten times more than before, which is very unusual, because usually active and hot stars have less iron than other stars, and this star has more,” Guenther Say. “Where do all these irons come from?”
If RW Aur A inhales its planet and does cause them to collide with each other. If one or more planets contain a significant amount of iron, it may dump a considerable amount of heavy metal into the star disk. When the material is absorbed into the star, the particles also block the light from the star.
“There are many processes in young stars, but these two situations may produce something that looks like what we’ve observed,” Guenther said.
“Many people are currently working hard to learn about exoplanets and how they are formed, so it’s important to see how young planets are destroyed in interactions with the main planet and other young planets, and the factors that determine whether they survive. He concluded.