Astronomers spot the planet devouring a Sun-like star

For the first time, astronomers have caught a star in the act of engulfing an entire planet, suggesting that Earth may meet the same fate albeit not in the near future. The Sun-like star, dubbed ZTF SLRN-2020, is located about 15,000 light-years away in the Milky Way galaxy in the constellation Eagle and is said to have gobbled up a hot gas giant larger than Jupiter.
The study is an international collaboration between 26 astronomers from several key institutions, mainly MIT, Harvard University and Caltech. Among the 26 astronomers, six are researchers of Indian origin: Kishalay De, SR Kulkarni, Mansi M Kasliwal, Deepto Chakrabarty, Nimesh Patel and Viraj Karmbelkar.
The team detected ZTF SLRN-2020 using multiple ground-based observatories and NASA’s Near Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft and described the details of this star in a study published in the journal Nature. It is estimated that the star had a mass between 0.8 and 1.5 times ours Sunwhile the engulfed exoplanet — a name given to planets outside our solar system — was one to 10 times the mass of Jupiter.
Kishalay De, the study’s lead author, who was born in Calcutta, educated at St James’ School and is now an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said: ‘We were seeing the end-stage of swallowing. This type of event has been predicted for decades, but until now we have never actually observed how this process plays out.”
The transfer of energy caused the star to temporarily increase in size and become a few hundred times brighter. Recent observations show that the star has returned to the size and brightness it had before merging with the planet.
A similar fate will befall Earth, though not for another 5 billion years, when the Sun is predicted to shut down and burn up the solar system’s inner planets.
“Planets with short orbital periods (about 10 days) are common around stars such as the Sun. Stars expand as they evolve and so we expect their nearby planetary companions to be engulfed, likely fueling luminous mass ejections from the planet. guest star. However, this stage has never been directly observed. Here we report observations of ZTF SLRN-2020, a short-lived optical burst in the galactic disk accompanied by a long-lasting, bright infrared emission. The resulting lightcurve and spectra share striking similarities with those of red novae, a class of eruptions now confirmed to result from binary star mergers,” the astronomers said in the journal.


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