Scientists have observed a star that has swallowed a planet. It happened about 12,000 light-years away with a planet about ten times the size of Jupiter.
This is the first time the event has been observed in real time. Astronomers expect that one day the sun will “eat” the earth in the same way.
The star was at the end of its life and thus burned out. When that happens, a kind of explosion occurs in which the star grows more than a thousand times in size. In doing so, all of the material surrounding the star is engulfed in heat, including the planets. The planet resisted its own gravity, but it couldn’t match the star’s sheer force. The eruption and being swallowed whole lasted a few months.
The observation was made by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. In the scientific journal Nature, they explain how they observed the eruption using infrared data from a NASA space telescope. The eruption was actually detected in 2020, but it took scientists three years to figure out exactly what happened.
Dying for the Earth
Most often, stars run out of fuel and planets disappear as a result. “We’re already seeing the future of Earth,” explains Keshalay Dee, a space researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When the sun burns, it also explodes, then engulfs Earth, Mercury, and Venus, among other things. In a few months, all planets will be completely destroyed. This is not expected to happen for another 5 billion years.
“It’s crazy to think that our planet will meet a similar fate,” said Morgan MacLeod, a researcher at Harvard University. You probably won’t notice the Sun much engulfment, because the Earth is so young. “When the earth is finally swallowed up, you will hardly notice the sun.”
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