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