Although astronomers have previously seen planets just before and after they are engulfed by a star, this is the first time, according to a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology. Technology.
“One of the first things I learned about in high school was that solar system planets would sink into the Sun in the future, so I realized that we might have found the first example of capturing a similar event in real time!” Kishaley T, a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNN.
This process causes a star to run out of fuel a million times its original size, engulfing any material in its wake. Astronomers observed this as a white-hot flash, followed by a long-lasting cooling signal, which they then concluded was caused by the star engulfing a planet.
“One night, out of nowhere, I noticed a star that had brightened by a factor of 100 in a week,” Dee said in a press release. “It was unlike any starburst I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The planetary extinction occurred in the constellation Aquila, about 12,000 light-years away. the planet The size of Jupiter, the researchers said.
They observed activity in May 2020, but it took a year to implement what they saw.
“One of the main sources we’re trying to understand is what creates the dust before and after the explosion,” Dee said. “However, it takes time for the gas to cool and begin to condense dust molecules.”
This meant the team had to wait to understand the properties of the dust, Di explained.
The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
‘Seeing Earth’s Future’
First, the signal showed up in data from the Palomar Observatory in California, then D searched for data on the same star from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, before using the infrared camera at the Palomar Observatory to gather more information.
“That infrared data made me fall off my chair,” Dee said, adding that the readings suggest the star may have merged with another star.
However, further analysis using measurements from NEOWISE, NASA’s infrared space telescope, revealed that the star had indeed consumed a planet.
“Historically, it’s been very difficult to have this kind of infrared data, because infrared detectors are expensive and it’s difficult to build large cameras. to take again and again Pictures of the sky,” Dee told CNN.
“However, we are on the brink of a revolution in infrared astronomy, and as many new instruments come online over the next decade, we hope to allow similar phenomena to be detected again and again.”
As a result, T believes that our knowledge can be further expanded.
“One of the key signatures we identified was the long-lasting infrared glow that followed the optical burst,” Di said.
“With larger infrared probes expected to become available in the future, we hope to be able to use the infrared emission as a way to identify every planet as it is embedded in our galaxy,” he told CNN.
Researchers say that our own planet will meet the same fate, but not for 5 billion years.
“We’re looking at the future of Earth,” Dee said in a press release. “If some other civilization were watching us from 10,000 light-years away as the Sun engulfed the Earth, they would see the Sun suddenly brighten, throw out some material, and see dust settle around it, then settle back down.”