Science

Planet-eating star discovered

Astrophysicists at Princeton University have discovered a pair of stars – official destinations of HD 240430 and HD 240429 – capable of ingesting a mass 15 times the size of Earth.

The pair are estimated to be 4 billion years old and like the Sun, are G-type stars. The pair are separated by 2 light-years, are co-moving but orbit each other on very rare occasions, roughly every 10,000 years.

Usually near-identical twins, the G-type stars are comprised of entirely different chemical makeups, making them such a point of interest with astrophysicists.

Named after the child-eating Titan of Greek mythology, Kronos (HD 240430) has been identified to contain increased levels of magnesium, aluminium, silicon and other minerals, without an equally high level of other gaseous compounds; seen as an irregularity amongst stars.

The variation in compound levels is what has excited astrophysicists most as it is such a rare occurrence. The change in composition has been suggested to be caused by Kronos ‘flying close to another star’. The interactions between Kronos and other stars and their gravitations pull “sent planets on doomsday trajectories into the star,” Semyeong Oh from the department of Astrophysics at Princeton said.

The changes in composition suggest Kronos has ingested ‘15 Earth masses of rocky planets’ and Dr. Hogg commented that “even if our Sun ate the entire inner Solar System, it wouldn’t come close to the anomaly we see in Kronos”.

Kronos may open the field and allow the composition of stars to be studied further.

24/10/2017

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Ellen Harwood