About 450 light-years from Earth, a young star was really looking forward to a planet-sized meal.
At least, a team of astronomers believe that RW Aur A, a star just a few million years old, has been studied by astronomers since 1
In star years "a few million years old," RW Aur A is very young and may give us the opportunity to experience how stars and planets interact in the early stages of their development. For the past 80 years, RW Aur A's light has darkened periodically "every few decades for about a month," according to NASA.
However, the light was already dimmed in 2011 and longer. A research team has turned the Chandra X-ray Observatory into a star over a five-year period to better understand what happened exactly .
Chandra, a space telescope launched in 1999, is extremely sensitive and can detect the intensity of X-rays emitted by the young star. Typically, young stars such as RW Aur A are surrounded by thick disks of debris and gas that alter the intensity of the X-rays that the star emits. By allowing Chandra to observe RW Aur A, data can be gained that will help scientists figure out what type of material is present in the discs.
The results published in the Astronomical Journal on July 18 show that Chandra was able to detect a wealth of iron around RW Aur A. Earlier measurements showed no such high iron, so the research team had to deal with the problem coming out.
Your explanation? Planetary Collisions
The team speculates that this iron surplus comes from a planetary or planetsimals that collide with each other around RW Aur A. If one of the planets is rich in iron, the collision would cause the iron to be flushed into space, enriching the corona of the hungry young star and causing the fullness that they see.
"If our interpretation of the data is correct, this would be the first time that we directly observe a devouring young star – a planet or planets," says Hans Guenther, who led the study from MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.
There is also the possibility that RW Aur A's partner star, RW Aur B, comes close enough that it snaps iron particles from the disk surrounding RW Aur A, which is in the star falls.
The next step is to investigate how RW Aur A's X-ray signatures differ over time, giving clues to the nature of the planetary collision, or perhaps revealing a completely new cause for the iron anomalies.
19659004] But, hey, that's not as exciting as a planet on the planet, is it?
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