Observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory indicate that scientists may have for the first time seen a young star devouring a young planet or planets.
The study, published in the Astronomical Journal, suggests that the parent star, located about 450 light years from Earth, is now in the process of devouring the planetary debris resulting from a collision of infant planetary bodies.
This discovery gives insight into the processes affecting the survival of infant planets.
Since 1937, astronomers are puzzled over the curious variability of the young star named RW Aur A.
Every few decades, the star’s optical light has faded briefly before brightening again.
In recent years, astronomers observed the star dimming more frequently, and for longer periods.
The new study could explain what caused the star’s most recent dimming event — a collision of two infant planetary bodies, including at least one object large enough to be a planet.