The story of the “Death Star” has been roaming the internet for a few days now. There is no secret that a star is killing its own planet anymore, but not everybody is focusing on the fact that human kind is witnessing this event for the first time. Never before have we seen a star eating the life of the planet that it is supposed to nourish and this gives us proof that there are some savage killers out there.
Andrew Vanderburg, a now famous graduate student from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, has gone into details as to what is exactly happening with the star and the planet that it is killing. According to Vanderburg “we are for the first time witnessing a miniature planet ripped apart by intense gravity, being vaporized by starlight and raining rocky material onto its star.”
The “mini-universe” was discovered with the aid of the Kepler telescope, widely recognized under the name of “the K2 mission.” Further investigations were carried out with ground-based telescopes, namely the MINERVA telescopes located in the Whipple Observatory, the MEarth-South, the MMT and the Keck. Vanderburg and his colleagues were able to make accurate observations about the star and the planet it is killing with these devices.
After having collected all the data, astronomers concluded that there are fragments of the planet scattered all over the place, surrounding the Death Star and dimming its light by roughly 40%. And that is not all: they have concluded that all the dissipated mass, if combined, might be as grand as Ceres. Ceres is a dwarf planet from our own Solar System and it is the largest asteroid that we have come to know thus far.
A theory was confirmed regarding white dwarf stars with this occasion. As expected, heavy elements were found polluting the star’s atmosphere. We are talking about elements like iron, silicon, calcium or magnesium. These elements were found in white dwarf stars before, so finding them yet again proves that humans are right about the composition of these celestial killers.
The heavy elements surrounding the star and moving towards it indicate one thing only: the star is sucking the life out of its bypasser. At the end of its life, the star will not fall alone, but will take another to join it in death. It is quite a romantic and philosophical thought, only that things are going to get a lot messier when a black hole forms
A star is killing its own planet and we seem to be lucky enough to see how it is doing it.
Photo Credits tachyonweb.net