Star RZ Piscium Appears To Be Eating Its Own Planets

Posted: Dec 23 2017, 7:42am CST | by , Updated: Dec 23 2017, 7:45am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Star RZ Picseum Appears to be Eating its Own Planets
An illustration of cloud of gas and dust as it orbits the star RZ Piscium about 550 light years from Earth. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab

Evidence suggests that strange, unpredictable dimming in star's light may be caused by clouds of gas and dust, the remains of one or more destroyed planets

A distant star located in the constellation Pisces is comsuming its own planets.

The star called RZ Piscium is displaying strange and upredictable dips in brigthness and researhceres suggest that it may be caused by vast clouds of gas and dust, which are actually the remains of one or more destroyed planets.

“Our observations show there are massive blobs of dust and gas that occasionally block the star's light and are probably spiraling into it," said lead researcher Kristina Punzi from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York. "Although there could be other explanations, we suggest this material may have been produced by the break-up of massive orbiting bodies near the star."

RZ Piscium is located about 550 light years away from Earth. During its unpredictable dimming episodes, the star becomes as much as 10 times fainter and it can last for maximum two days. Such fluctuations cannot be attributed to a planet passing in front of the star. In addition, RZ Piscium produces far more energy at infrared wavelengths than emitted by stars like our Sun, leading researchers to conclude that the star is surrounded by a disk of warm dust. Frequent collisions are grinding the rocks or planetary material around the star to dust and the material is slowly forming into a small circle of debris.

The findings come from an analysis of observations made by European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite, the Shane 3-meter telescope at Lick Observatory in California and the 10-meter Keck I telescope in Hawai. Based on the observations, researchers suggest that most of the debris is orbiting about 30 million miles from the star.

"While we think the bulk of this debris is about as close to the star as the planet Mercury ever gets to our Sun, the measurements also show variable and rapidly moving emission and absorption from hydrogen-rich gas," said co-author Carl Melis, an associate research scientist from University of California, San Diego. "Our measurements provide evidence that material is both falling inward toward the star and also flowing outward."

However the explanation is far from being definitive. An alternative view suggests the star is somewhat older than sun and just beginning its transition into the red giant stage.

"Most Sun-like stars have lost their planet-forming disks within a few million years of their birth," said team member Ben Zuckerman, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The fact that RZ Piscium hosts so much gas and dust after tens of millions of years means it's probably destroying, rather than building, planets."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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