Dead Star Caught Violently Tearing Up Planetary System: ‘Cosmic cannibalism’

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A star’s death throes have so violently disrupted its planetary system that the dead star left behind, called a white dwarf, is siphoning off debris from both the system’s inner and outer reaches. This is the first time astronomers have observed a white dwarf star that is consuming both rocky-metallic and icy material, the ingredients of planets. Archival data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA observatories were essential in diagnosing this case of cosmic cannibalism. The findings help describe the violent nature of evolved planetary systems and can tell astronomers about the makeup of newly forming systems.

The findings are based on analyzing material captured by the atmosphere of the nearby white dwarf star G238-44. A white dwarf is what remains of a star like our Sun after it sheds its outer layers and stops burning fuel through…

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