NASA observes ‘cannibalism in the universe’ using Hubble data
For the first time, NASA astronomers say they have observed a dead star ripping apart a planetary system and consuming material from other planets, which they say provides insights. about the beginning and end of life here on Earth.
Data collected from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other observational projects are used to analyze a white dwarf star – the dense remnant of a star like Earth’s sun. – called G238-44.
As stars collapse, the density of the remains often pulls other objects in space toward them. In the case of G238-44, the white star was observed to be violently disrupting the inner and outer regions of a nearby planetary system. The breakdown of the planetary system around G238-44 also offers researchers the opportunity to see the components of a planet – what materials are they made of and in what quantities, to understand learn more about the elements, metals, and other materials that make up the planet.
This case study in “cosmic cannibalism,” announced by NASA on Wednesday, is important to our understanding of our universe and new systems, scientists say. its formation, the scientists said.
The NASA scientists also noted that the white star appears to be sucking up ice and rock debris from nearby objects. The suction of icy debris is particularly interesting because it hints at how water is found on different moons or planets in the universe, the researchers say. Scientists think that icy debris hitting the dry, rocky planets will “water” them, which may be how water was delivered to Earth billions of years ago.
“We have never seen both types of objects accumulating into a white dwarf at the same time,” said lead researcher Ted Johnson in a press release. “By studying these white dwarfs, we hope to better understand planetary systems that are still intact.”
These white dwarf observations also give researchers the opportunity to study how our planetary system might collapse at the end of the sun’s life cycle.
When a star first begins to die, it expands, altering the orbits of any nearby planets and shoving smaller objects like asteroids or moons into eccentric orbits. and impressive. But as the star collapses, it grows denser, possibly pulling some objects in unusual orbits too close to the white dwarf. The white dwarf’s force rips these objects apart and turns them into gas or dust that forms a ring around the dying star before falling to its surface.
By observing how this process occurs with G238-44, scientists can begin to understand how the process might re-create when Earth’s sun begins to die.
Research shows that as our sun begins to expand towards the end of its life, it will likely engulf and vaporize the first three planets in our solar system, including Earth, before its fierce winds began to disrupt the orbits of the remaining planets, similar to the planetary system that surrounds G238-44.
But fear not – scientists say the end of the sun’s life cycle isn’t likely for another 5 billion years, so there’s plenty of time to figure that out.