A recent research seems to suggest that we might have just witnessed the case of an alien sun consuming its own planets. Scientists are convinced that they managed to record a direct evidence of such event.
Unusual behavior of RW Aur A
The scientists have long been fascinated by a binary star system called RW Aur, belonging to the Auriga constellation and located some 450 light years away from us. They noticed that the light coming from RW Aur A, one of the stars belonging to this system, constantly dims and flickers back every few decades. Especially intriguing is the fact that, lately, these cycles have been more frequent and they last longer than before.
The star that is eating its planets
Trying to resolve the mystery of RW Aur A, the scientists used data gathered by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which provided them with evidence that the stars’ light is being sucked up by a mysterious “absorber” that “inhabits” the inner disk of the star. The mentioned absorber is likely to be made of remainings of young planets that collided due to the star’s gravity.
According to Hans Moritz Guenther from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the main lead of the study, if the collected data was interpreted correctly, the observed event is something that the scientists have long predicted – a young star eating a planet. This would explain the unusual periods of brightness and dimness: the original collision left large pieces, which have been colliding and falling into smaller and smaller pieces, creating more debris.
The mystery of the high content of iron in the star’s disk
The idea of a star that ate its planets could also provide an explanation to the mystery of large amounts of iron in the star’s disk. The scientists believe that at least one of the planets sucked by RW Aur A contained a very high level of iron, releasing it into the star’s disk after the collision.
The work is not done yet, as scientists plan to keep observing the star, its brightness and the iron levels. They hope that their study will contribute to researches of other scientists.
As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.