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May 4, 2023

Astronomers witness star devouring a planet: Possible preview of the ultimate fate of Earth

Posted by in categories: energy, space

With the power of the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI) on Gemini South, one half of the International Gemini Observatory, operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, astronomers have observed the first direct evidence of a dying star expanding to engulf one of its . Evidence for this event was found in a telltale “long and low-energy” outburst from a star in the Milky Way about 13,000 light-years from Earth. This event, the devouring of a planet by an engorged star, likely presages the ultimate fate of Mercury, Venus, and Earth when our sun begins its death throes in about five billion years.

“These observations provide a new perspective on finding and studying the billions of stars in our Milky Way that have already consumed their planets,” says Ryan Lau, NOIRLab astronomer and co-author on this study, which is published in the journal Nature.

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