More from Associated Press
July 18, 2018
July 18, 2018 5:35 PM EDT
This artist’s illustration depicts the destruction of a young planet, which scientists may have witnessed for the first time. (NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)
WASHINGTON — Astronomers may have caught a relatively nearby star munching on a planet or mini-planets.
A NASA space telescope noticed that the star suddenly started looking a bit strange last year. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory spotted a 30-fold increase in iron on the edge of the star, which is 10 million years old, along with pronounced dimming.
MIT scientist Hans Moritz Guenther says he’s never seen anything quite like this before. He says one potential simple explanation is that the star is eating a planet or mini-planets. Outside experts say that’s possible, but the evidence is circumstantial.
Astronomers have been watching the star for decades and iron levels weren’t high in 2015.
The star is 450 light-years away. A light-year is 5.9 million miles.
The study is in Wednesday’s Astronomical Journal.