Thursday, August 23, 2012

Video: Star Eats Planet

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Artists conception of a red giant star engulfing one of its planets.
  • NASA
  • Artist's conception of a red giant star engulfing one of its planets.

Astronomers say they have witnessed the death of a planet for the first time.

The planet was devoured by one of its own stars, an aging red giant named BD+48 740. Such events aren't uncommon in the universe, but they happen relatively quickly, and the Los Angeles Times reports that it's unlikely for one to be observed directly.

A team of astronomers at Penn State University made the discovery while studying the star using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of Texas.

They published their findings in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Red giant stars grow rapidly as hydrogen becomes less efficient in its core and is transferred to its outer shell. That caused this star to burn much brighter and grow to a size 11 times larger than the sun, engulfing planets as it continues to expand.

"A similar fate may await the inner planets in our solar system, when the sun becomes a red giant and expands all the way out to Earth's orbit some 5 billion years from now," team member Alex Wolszczan told

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