Humanity saw it for the first time

A star who was at the end of his life It devoured a planet the size of Jupiter. This was the event that humanity was able to appreciate for the first time, the event that could happen to the Earth when the Sun reaches a similar aging process.

A group of scientists led by Kishalai De, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, discovered the event, which was called “ZTV SLRN-2020In this planet, it orbits its star at a distance less than Mercury from our sun. I ended up sucking it up.

This was the event

Note as shown Published Made in the magazine nature, Multiple ground-based observatories were usedIn addition to NASA’s NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) spacecraft.

During their study, they found that the star in question was at the beginning of the last stage of its life, that is, it was a star Red giant, A phase that can last more than 100,000 years.

As this star expanded, its outer atmosphere surrounded the planet, slowing its orbit, shrinking it, and finally… Sending it below the visible surface of the starThe same way a burning meteorite does when it enters Earth.

This caused the star to temporarily increase in size. It becomes a few hundred times brighter. now, According to NASA, its size and brightness have already returned to their pre-merger state.

How was ZTF SLRN-2020 found?

The event was originally discovered through observations he made Zwicky Transitional Facility (ZTV), which Look for cosmic events that change brightness rapidlysometimes within hours, and were able to capture a flash of optical light, that is, that visible to the human eye, after the planet had disappeared.

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This observatory was actually looking for other types of events, known as… you do not gothat is, when the star is dead and collapsing, known as white dwarf, It devours hot gas from another nearby star.

The process of a star consuming a planet

These are always surrounded by flows of hot gas, captured by the ZTF, although this gas has the advantage of being much cooler, something that doesn’t look like a nova or something similar.

To explain this phenomenon, they turned to the company NEOWISE, which scans the entire sky using infrared light every six months to produce maps of the entire sky that allow astronomers See how things change in space.

The planet that “fought” to the end

After analyzing the data, the astronomer found that the star was bright About a year before ZTF discovered its flash, Evidence that dust was forming around it.

For Dee and his colleagues, this means that the planet did not disappear “without a fight”, but rather disappeared He was able to extract hot gas dE. The bulge of the star’s surface when it disappears.

During the planet’s collision with the star More gas was thrown into spaceWhich produced visible dust, the same dust that the infrared observatories and NEOWISE were able to capture.

The end awaits the sun and the earth

For NASA, this event is a clear example of… What will eventually happen to Earth?. According to the agencyIn about five billion years, the Sun is expected to become a red giant, engulfing Mercury, Venus, and perhaps Earth in its path.

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Of course, there will be a big difference: the light display that the observer can see will be much dimmer, Because they are smaller planets From Jupiter.

For now, these new observations are a great discovery for astronomers They know best what these events should look like In order to find more, as most medium-sized stars will eventually become red giants, some are estimated to devour nearby planets every year throughout the galaxy.

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