Jun 21, 2022

Dead star’s cannibalism of its planetary system is most far-reaching ever witnessed

Posted by in categories: physics, space

The violent death throes of a nearby star so thoroughly disrupted its planetary system that the dead star left behind—known as a white dwarf—is sucking in debris from both the system’s inner and outer reaches, UCLA astronomers and colleagues report today.

This is the first case of cosmic cannibalism in which astronomers have observed a white dwarf consuming both rocky-metallic material, likely from a nearby asteroid, and icy material, presumed to be from a body similar to those found in the Kuiper belt at the fringe of our own solar system.

“We have never seen both of these kinds of objects accreting onto a white dwarf at the same time,” said lead researcher Ted Johnson, a physics and astronomy major at UCLA who graduated last week. “By studying these white dwarfs, we hope to gain a better understanding of planetary systems that are still intact.”

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