每日英語跟讀 Ep.K569: Galactic Gobble: Star Devours a Planet in One Gulp
In a first-ever observation, astronomers have witnessed a star engulfing a planet in one big gulp, like a giant swallowing a grape. The star, similar to our sun, had expanded over time and was now so huge that it consumed the Jupiter-sized gas giant. The event took place between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago near the Aquila constellation when the star was around 10 billion years old. When the planet was consumed, a swift hot outburst of light followed, along with a long-lasting stream of dust shining brightly in cold infrared energy.
The findings of the study, published in the journal Nature, suggest that while astronomers had previously observed planets being nibbled by stars, this is the first time a planet has been seen being completely consumed by its star. It provides a glimpse into the future of our solar system when our sun transforms into a red giant and swallows the four inner planets. The study’s co-author, Morgan MacLeod, said that this event would occur in about five billion years, so there’s no need to worry now.
The star’s lifespan, which lasts billions of years, meant that the swallow itself occurred in one fell swoop, which was brief. However, astronomers do not know if there are other planets that are circling this star at a safer distance. If there are, they might have thousands of years before being consumed by the star. Researchers can now keep an eye out for more cosmic gulps because they suspect that thousands of planets around other stars will experience the same fate as this one.
Carole Haswell, an astrophysicist at Britain’s Open University who was not involved in the research, said that the discovery was “very plausible.” She led a team in 2010 that used the Hubble Space Telescope to identify the star WASP-12 in the process of eating its planet. She stated that “This is a different sort of eating. This star gobbled a whole planet in one gulp,” while contrasting the finding with previous discoveries where hot Jupiters were being delicately licked and nibbled.
The researchers’ findings demonstrate the fleeting yet intense nature of cosmic phenomena. They remind us that everything we see around us and everything we’ve built will be gone in a flash, as the star demonstrated in consuming the planet. Nevertheless, the study’s findings provide valuable insights into the life cycles of stars and planets, and the future of our own solar system.
Reference article: https://apnews.com/article/star-eats-planet-galactic-gulp-660ef9e64e15e35f8ad820e032494704