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Young stars can devour a planet

An artistic illustration of the young star RW Aur A consuming planetary debris.

(NASA/CXC/M. Weiss; X-ray spectrum: NASA/CXC/MIT/H. M. Günther )

Researchers from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory may saw a young star where the planet.

For decades, scientists have observed irregular dimming of RW Aur A, a young star in the constellation Taurus constellation Auriga. Questions about this star grew as it began to dim more frequently and for longer periods of time, according to Hans Moritz Guenther, a scientist in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and the lead author of the study. Physicists in search of the phenomenon have observed RW Aur A with the help of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the researchers believe that they may be the reason for this dimming: This young star is “eating” a planet, told Guenther Space.com.

On the basis of the new Chandra observations, Guenther, the team thinks that there are two baby planetary bodies (at least one of which is large enough to be a planet) collide, and the debris of this crash is to fall in RW Aur A. This debris would create a “veil” of gas and dust that would obscure the star’s light, according to a statement from Chandra. [The Puzzle of ‘Tabby’ s Stars: 9 NASA Explanations for the Star is Strange Dimming]

“Computer simulations have long predicted that planets can fall into a young star, but never before have we noted that,” Guenther said in the statement. “If our interpretation of the data is correct, this would be the first time that we directly observe a young star devouring a planet or planets.”

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In a previous observation of the young stars in 2017, astronomers found 10 times more iron coming from the disk of dust and gas that remains around the star than an earlier observation was found in 2013, according to the statement. And “that iron has to come from somewhere,” Guenther said Space.com. Guenther and his colleagues suggest that this iron must have come from planetary debris around the star that had “broken down” in the clash between the two baby planetary bodies.

“Every time that we have seen [RW Aur A], it looked quite different than it used to be,” said Guenther Space.com with reference to the star iron levels, and brightness. Researchers think that the previous dimming events with the young star can also be caused by similar collisions, according to the statement.

But, while Guenther and his team think that this smashup would have released iron and materials in the star, obscuring the light, and the cause is too vague, it is not the only explanation.

Guenther told Space.com that it is equally likely that there are small pieces of the material (such as iron) may be recorded in a “dust pressure trap’, in which material is trapped in the disk of dust and gas surrounding the star to sudden changes in the drive source of the material to be released. This material, including iron, can then “fall” into the nearby star.

But the evidence is clear that the “iron must come from the disc, the young stellar disk where the planets formed around the star,” and there is a “fairly large amount of iron that comes from somewhere in a short time — that is what we know.”

The team will keep the young star again to see if the amount of iron is changed and, hopefully, a better insight into these events. By studying this star, which the researchers hope to get a better idea of what really goes on in the life of a young star and how child planets manage to survive, according to the statement.

Original article on Space.com.

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