Researchers at NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have seen a young star devour a planet.
For decades, scientists have observed irregular dimming of RW Aur A, a young star in the Taurus-Auriga constellation. The questions about this star grew as it became more and more dull, "said Hans Moritz Günther, researcher at the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT and lead author of the study. Physicists studying the phenomenon have observed RW Aur A with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the researchers believe they've found the reason for this dimming: this young star "eats" a planet, Guenther said to Space.com. 19659002] Based on new Chandra observations, Guenther's team believes that two planetary child bodies (at least one of them being large enough to be a planet) collide and debris from this crash in RW Aur A fall "veils" of gas and dust, which would darken the light of the star, according to a statement by Chandra. [The Puzzle of ̵
"Computer simulations have long predicted that planets could fall into a young star, but we've never seen it before," Guenther said in the statement. "If our interpretation of the data is correct, this would be the first time that we directly observe a young star devouring a planet or planets."
In an earlier observation of the young star in 2017, astronomers found 10 times more iron coming out of the disk of dust and gas that continues to surround the star, as a previous observation in 2013 according to the statement had found. And "this iron has to come from somewhere," Günther told Space.com. Guenther and his colleagues suggest that this iron must come from planetary debris around the star that was "broken off" in the collision between the two planetary bodies.
"Every time we see it [RW Aur A] it looks very different than before," Guenther told Space.com, referring to the iron content and brightness of the star. The researchers believe that earlier dimming events with the young star could also have been caused by similar collisions, the statement said.
But Guenther and his team think that this collision could have released iron and materials into the star's light and darkening, that's not the only explanation.
Guenther told Space.com that it is equally likely that small pieces of material (such as the iron) can be trapped in a "dust pressure trap", in which material is trapped in the disk of dust and gas around the star until sudden changes of the disc release the material. This material, including iron, could then "fall" into the nearby star.
But the evidence is clear that the "iron must come from the disk, from the young star disk where planets form around the star" and there is a "fairly large amount of iron coming from somewhere in a short time – we know this."
The team will re-watch the young star to see if the amount of iron has changed and, hopefully, better understand events. Investigating this star, researchers hope to get a better idea of what's really going on in the life of a young star and how infantile planets can survive.