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 only
10 million years old, along with pronounced dimming.
Astronomers have been watching the baby star � in the
constellation Taurus � for decades and iron levels weren’t high in 2015
the last time the Chandra telescope looked at it. The star, called RW
Aur A, is 450 light-years away. A light-year is 5.9 trillion miles.
Hans Moritz Guenther, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, said he’s never seen anything quite like this before,
calling it a lot stranger than we thought we’d be seeing.
We’ve never seen any star that’s changed its iron abundance like
that, he said.
Guenther said one potential simple explanation is that the star is
eating a planet or mini-planets. He looked at other possible
explanations, and of the two that make sense, he prefers the planet-
munching one. Computer simulations show it can happen, but it has
never been seen before, he said.
Outside experts are wary.
This could be an exciting discovery, but the evidence is circumstantial
and not definitive, said Harvard’s Avi Loeb.
Guenther’s preferred explanation is speculative, said Alan Boss
of the Carnegie Institution of Science, an expert on planets outside our
solar system, the Associated Press (AP) news reported.
Source: Oman News Agency