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Space Science

Astronomers Watch Star Devouring Planet 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the om-nom-nom dept.
jamstar7 writes "According to Universe Today, 'Astronomers have witnessed the first evidence of a planet's destruction by its aging star as it expands into a red giant. "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 five-billion years from now," said Alex Wolszczan, from Penn State, University, who led a team which found evidence of a missing planet having been devoured by its parent star (abstract, pre-print). Wolszczan also is the discoverer of the first planet ever found outside our solar system. The planet-eating culprit, a red-giant star named BD+48 740, is older than the Sun and now has a radius about eleven times bigger than our Sun. The evidence the astronomers found was a massive planet in a surprising and highly elliptical orbit around the star — indicating a missing planet — plus the star's wacky chemical composition.' Five billion years or so is a long way off, so it's likely none of us has to worry about it. But still, watching a star eating its own planets is not only cool in its own right, but also provides food for thought as to how to keep the human species going long after the Sun starts going off the main sequence into red giant-hood. And, of course, putting more funding into astronomers' and physicists' hands now can give us a closer estimate of when it'll happen. It's all in the math..."
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Astronomers Watch Star Devouring Planet

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    But still, watching a star eating its own planets is not only cool in its own right, but also provides food for thought as to how to keep the human species going long after the Sun starts going off the main sequence into red giant-hood.

    1. Solve the fossil fuel crisis. ...
    47819121. Solve for the survival of the descendants of the human species after the sun goes red giant.
    47819122. Profit!

    I think there's a couple steps missing.

    • by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @06:54PM (#41075091) Homepage Journal

      A sufficiently advanced and long-lived civilization comes to realize that its sun is a liability, not an asset.

      Of course reaching the end of its life and going nova or red giant is bad. But even well before that, stars are known to throw nasty flares and Carrington-type events [slashdot.org]. And go through dim/bright cycles (almost all stars are variable to some degree, including ours).

      Colonizing the moon or Mars doesn't guarantee survival of the human race. The only real way to do that is to move the planet far away from the star -- a.k.a. Fleet of Worlds. This is part of the wisdom contained in the Known Space books.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        OTOH, in a billion years we may have the technology to prolong the life of a star.

        • by citizenr (871508)

          OTOH, in a billion years we may have the technology to prolong the life of a star.

          Someone might even find a way to reverse entropy.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            OTOH, in a billion years we may have the technology to prolong the life of a star.

            Someone might even find a way to reverse entropy.

            Or even invent a machine where we can go back to a point in time of our choosing to escape the destruction of the planet.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        A sufficiently advanced and long-lived civilization comes to realize that its sun is a liability, not an asset.

        That's why the early advanced civilizations engineered most of the coalescing hydrogen into a multitute of gas giants instead of the stars most would have ended up in. Providing them with vast reservoirs of unspent fuel for the future. Also accounting for the 'missing mass' of dark matter. As soon as we can figure out whey they encased them in a non-reflective dyson-sphere-like structure.

      • by thelexx (237096) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @12:11AM (#41077521)

        If I have it right, humans have been around in anatomical form for about ~200,000 years. And in about one billion years, the sun will begin expansion. Let's also say that in only 500,000,000 years it will already be unlivable on Earth for the reasons you mentioned.

        We would still have ~2500 'lifetimes-of-humanity-thusfar' to figure it out.

        Not. Worried.

      • by petsounds (593538)

        A sufficiently advanced and long-lived civilization who subscribes to the theory of heat death comes to realize that its universe is a liability, not an asset.

        Such a civilization has two obvious choices: find a mirror universe to colonize which is not fading to black due to differing physical characteristics, or find a way to travel back in time.

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @05:34AM (#41078903)

        Of course reaching the end of its life and going nova or red giant is bad. But even well before that, stars are known to throw nasty flares and Carrington-type events [slashdot.org]. And go through dim/bright cycles (almost all stars are variable to some degree, including ours).

        Actually, even if the Sun behaves in a perfectly orderly fashion, life on Earth will be doomed long before that since the total radiative output of the Sun will gradually increase as the Sun will be moving on the H-R diagram main sequence. It could easily be unlivable here in just a few hundred million years.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      food for thought as to how to keep the human species going long after the Sun starts going off the main sequence into red giant-hood

      How about a little perspective here? Humans won't be around in four billion years. Hell, we haven't been around for two million. We'll either become extinct, or evolve into something else. In fact, I've been writing a little fiction [slashdot.org] about our descendants ten million years from now, who call us "protohumans".

  • Headline is vague (Score:3, Informative)

    by neminem (561346) <{neminem} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:17PM (#41073907) Homepage

    I would have been far more interested to know what kind of crazy planet was capable of devouring stars.

  • Based off the title it is unclear if this is about a star that devours planets or a planet that devours stars.
  • I [wikipedia.org] felt a great disturbance in the Force [wikipedia.org], as if millions of voices [wikipedia.org] suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.
  • Don't Panic! (Score:5, Informative)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:19PM (#41073933)
    Just grab your towel and your copy of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". You DO have your copy, don't you??
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Just grab your towel and your copy of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". You DO have your copy, don't you??

      Of course I have a copy of my towel.

      wait wut?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    5 billion years? We'd actually be well established in other solar systems and have the ability to engineer our own solar system from scratch using our current one as resources for it.

    Sometimes I almost wonder if those "hurtling stars" are in fact versions of these that have been built by some advanced civilization.
    The ability for a star to just be launched out of alignment with the galaxy just seems unlikely. Very unlikely.
    Literal starships in every sense of the meaning.
    Huge container around the star, ven

    • pfff I bet $20 we crack the 4th dimension in, say.. 500 million years. After that, none of this really matters.
    • by LurkerXXX (667952)

      That's not the way the puppeteers did it.

    • Given some stars come from other galaxies that the Milky Way swallowed and also some stars are ejected from clusters it is not surprising some stars are "launched out of alignment with the galaxy"

  • Woah! That's some incredible planet. I'd have thought it would be the other way around.

  • by MDMurphy (208495) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:34PM (#41074129)

    I guess some hyperbole comes in handy when you're trying for grants and other funding, it's definitely the norm for reporters. In the article though at least the researching team isn't quoted saying they observed it happening, but that they found evidence of it having happened. Another supposed scientist from Spain had to through in the "caught in the act" line though.

    Granted something that far away will never be observed as it happened, but it's not like they observed the occurrence as it appeared here. It's like the difference between seeing the blood on the ground and a body and seeing the person being shot. One is seeing the act, one is seeing the evidence.

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:42PM (#41074227)

    Please don't tell me it was off for peer review!?

    Apart from that: Headline and TFS is sensationalist trash. No direct observation of the planet being devoured as suggested, we'll have to wait for the new L2 space telescope for even a possibility of that. All we have is an anomalous Li spectrum which **suggests**, in accordance with **currently accepted theory** of lithium propagation, that a planet **may** have just fallen into its parent star.

    • Please don't tell me it was off for peer review!?

      Apart from that: Headline and TFS is sensationalist trash. No direct observation of the planet being devoured as suggested, we'll have to wait for the new L2 space telescope for even a possibility of that. All we have is an anomalous Li spectrum which **suggests**, in accordance with **currently accepted theory** of lithium propagation, that a planet **may** have just fallen into its parent star.

      People run for public office on even less.

  • They say our planet will be eaten by the sun in 5 billion years but.. how soon will the growing sun end life on earth? Our planet will be long dead by the time the sun actually touch's earth. So our life on earth is a lot lot shorter then 5 billion it could be a thousand or less were loosing Glaser at an alarming rate huge chunks of the Antarctic are popping off. Are we at the beginning of the end now?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      " Our planet will be long dead by the time the sun actually touch's earth."
      Based on... what? I don
      t think our planet will be lifeless until the suns expansion.
      Might not be human life.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        " Our planet will be long dead by the time the sun actually touch's earth."
        Based on... what? I don
        t think our planet will be lifeless until the suns expansion.
        Might not be human life.

        That's what the martians thought, too.

        • " Our planet will be long dead by the time the sun actually touch's earth." Based on... what? I don t think our planet will be lifeless until the suns expansion. Might not be human life.

          That's what the martians thought, too.

          What martians? ....Oh, yeah.....

      • by Stan92057 (737634)
        The sun isn't going to get cooler as it grows, hell it might take the sun expanding by a foot to heat our planet to 150 degrees daylight temps. I don't know in no scientist but i bet the scientist know just when and how long we actually have. But its going to be far less then 5 billion far far less
  • The hubris of of someone thinking humans will be around in 1000 years, much less 5 billion, is astonishing.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Why is the hubris? we've been around for or 10,000. Why not the next thousand?

      • by Xandrax (2451618)

        Because our technology was not advancing as fast as it is now, or capable of the level of destruction that it soon will be. The answer to the Fermi Paradox is that species destroy themselves when technology gets to point where true space travel is possible. Technology advances technology, to the point that technological evolution advances far faster than societal evolution. As a result, technology is created that a species is not responsible enough to handle, and it destroys itself either in the form of w

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      I think we'll be around a lot longer than another thousand years.

      Whether we'll still have Americans, though, remains to be seen...
  • 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 five-billion years from now

    I see this a lot, and it isn't unreasonable to believe, except for the fact that we will collide with the Andromeda [wikipedia.org] in four-billion years. We will likely be torn away from our sun and consumed by other masses before we have to worry about being swallowed
  • "But still, watching a star eating its own planets is not only cool in its own right, but also provides food for thought as to how to keep the human species going long after the Sun starts going off the main sequence into red giant-hood."

    Oh, I get it. Food for thought. Delicious.

  • Same as /. articles are submitters' impressions. Both are catchy but as a rule grossly inaccurate.
  • However, there is also a hypothesis that exoplanets observed by means of dimming may just be the star experiencing a giant sun spot. Rather than this being an exoplanet being devoured by a star, it may just be a star's sunspot closing up.
  • I initially read "Astronomers Watch a Star Devouring Planet" which read like the Planet was eating the Star which I was thinking WTF?????? After re-reading the OP and the title I realised that I had read it wrong.
  • I'm trying to decide what I'll have for breakfast.
  • Come on now, name it Glactus already!

  • I am disappointed that this article ended up being the opposite of what I imagined it to be.
  • I can't be the only one who comprehended the title as some monster planet that somehow devoured a star and immediately said, "WTF? It has to be the other way around." And sure enough, it is meant to be the other way around.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen

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