NASA highlighted an animation that represents a distant star ripping the gases from a planet the size of Jupiter, which ends up swallowed by it
For the first time, astronomers have managed to observe a star devouring one of its planets. The process appears represented in an animation, highlighted by the NASA this Tuesday (6) on the website Astronomy Picture of the Day.
It all happened on the star ZTF SLRN-2020, which looks like the Sol and is about 12,000 light-years away from us. The planet it devoured was about the size of Jupiter, and orbited its star closer to it than Mercury orbits the Sun.
The animation begins with the star stealing the planet’s atmosphere; part of it ends up absorbed by the star, while the other gases are ejected into space. Towards the end of the video, the planet is engulfed by the star, causing its outer atmosphere to become temporarily hotter and brighter.
Astronomers have already identified several red giant stars and suspect that they sometimes consume nearby planets; but, until then, the process had not been observed. With the help of space telescopes and on the ground, they caught the star during his “meal”.
star swallowing planet
The star involved in the process has reached the red giant stage, which tells us that it is approaching the end of its life. After exhausting its fuel reserves for nuclear fusion, the star begins to expand its layers, getting closer to the planets it orbits.
It expanded and its outer atmosphere enveloped the planet. The gases caused it to slow down and shorten its orbit, until it plunged into the star’s atmosphere. The energy transfer caused the star to temporarily increase in size and become brighter. However, recent observations have shown that it has returned to the size it was before the merger.
Something like that is going to happen in the Solar System. In about five billion years, the Sun will become a red giant and it will swallow Mercury, Venus, and probably the Earth; only, as our planet and neighbors are much smaller than Jupiter, it is likely that our star’s dinner will not cause such an intense increase in illumination.
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