Planet Death March?

Strange things occur among the stars–amazing, unexpected, and bewildering behavior that both baffles and bewitches people who attempt to comprehend Animal Removal Company the long-held secrets lost in starlight. Mysteries are fun, and solving them are able to offer an unsurpassed delight. Among the most mesmerizing of leading mysteries is the weird behaviour of parent-stars that consume their own planetary-offspring, as one by one–at a horrible death march of the planets–those doomed worlds spiral fatally inward, and then eventually into, the fiery furnaces of the roiling, broiling parent-stars. Some celebrities act like ancient gods. In October and December 2017, two separate teams of astronomers announced they’ve found clues that particular stellar parents exhibit tattle-tale proof of the terrible feast, showing signs of having devoured their own tragic planetary offspring.

In October 2017, a group of astronomers announced their discovery of twin celebrities–and, after observing them, had come to the startling realization that among the stars showed tattle-tale indications of getting devoured at least a dozen rocky planets. Because of this, the Princeton astronomers named the leading duo following Kronos and his less renowned brother Krios. The official designations for both stars are HD 240430 and HD 240429.

In a different study, published in December 2017, another group of U.S. astronomers, who was observing the star RZ Piscium, announced they’ve found troubling clues indicating that its bizarre and unpredictable episodes of “winking” could result from enormous tattle-tale clouds of dust and gas. It’s thought that these clouds are all that remain of the wicked parent-star’s dreadful feast–when it devoured its own busted planet-children.

“Our observations show there are massive blobs of gas and dust that sometimes block the star’s light and are likely spiraling into it. Though there might be other explanations, we indicate this substance might have been produced from the break-up of enormous orbiting bodies close to the star,” explained Kristina Punzi at a December 21, 2017 NASA Press Release.

So as to comprehend the sibling stellar duo, dubbed Kronos and Krios, the researchers had to confirm that both widely separated stars actually compose a binary system. After that, the scientists analyzed Kronos’ bizarre chemical abundance pattern, based on Semyeong Oh, a graduate student in astrophysical sciences that is lead author on a new paper that clarifies Kronos and Krios. The Flatiron Institute, situated in New York, is the intramural research branch of the Simons Foundation.

Other co-moving leading binaries have shown different chemistries, Oh went on to describe, but none that are as radically different as those of Kronos and Krios.

Really, most stars that are richly endowed with alloys as Kronos “have the rest of the components enhanced at a similar level, whereas Kronos has volatile components suppressed, making it very weird in the overall context of stellar abundance patterns,” Oh continued to remark.

In astronomy the term metallic refers to all the atomic elements that are heavier than helium. All the atomic elements heavier than helium were formed in the nuclear-fusing fires of the stars, or at the supernovae that heralded the volatile “deaths” of massive stars.

The issue is that Kronos revealed an unusually large degree of rock-forming minerals, such as aluminum, magnesium, iron, iron, chromium and yttrium–without an equally significant degree of volatile chemicals, such as those commonly found in gas form, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and potassium.

Kronos is already past the Galactic standard, Oh noted. She added that, additionally, “since it (Kronos) has a leading companion to compare it to, it makes the event a bit stronger.”

It’s tough to directly observe planet formation around young stars–they’re generally shrouded in dust, and the celebrities themselves are very busy, making it tough to disentangle any signs from the planets. So we must infer what we can from the limited information we have. If carried out, this new window on the masses and compositions of this substance at the early stages of planetary systems may provide critical constraints for planet formation theories.” Dr. Christiansen wasn’t involved in the study.

Postdoctoral Fellow in Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton, and a co-author on the newspaper describing Kronos and Krios, commented at the exact same Press Release that “Among the most frequent assumptions–well-motivated, but it’s an assumption–that is pervasive through Galactic astronomy at this time is that stars are born with [chemical] abundances, and they then keep those abundances. This study is a sign that, at least in some situations, that’s catastrophically false.”

Some Like It Sexy

Really, this rather disturbing behavior among the celebrities was suggested back in 1995, once the first confirmed exoplanet was discovered in orbit around its Sun-like star.

The Swiss group’s observations indicated the existence of a world, as hefty as our own Solar System’s banded behemoth Jupiter, circling its leading parent in an orbit far too close for comfort.

The remote parent-star, 51 Pegasi, is located in the constellation Pegasus. The then-newly-discovered gigantic planet, called 51 Pegasi b, is a mere 4,300,000 kilometers from its star–a small fraction of the space separating Mercury, the innermost major world, from our own Sun.

What was the monumental 51 Pegasi b doing so near its star?

51 Pegasi is regarded as a neighboring star, a relatively trifling 42 light-years from our Sun and its loved ones. Nevertheless, 51 Pegasi b was extremely hard to detect because it had been lost in the blinding glare of its more brilliant stellar parent. No present telescope could image this world, though it’s monumental. Just a little “twist” in the moves of 51 Pegasi, carefully monitored over a two year period with a visible light spectrograph in the Observatoire de Haute Provence at Saint Michel, France, betrayed the gravitational tug of the massive world on its own star–thus creating the tattle-tale “wobble”.

The California team observed precisely the same “wobble” as the Swiss team.

The fantastic thing is that among the most profound questions in astrophysics had at long last been answered.

The bad news is the fantastic news contested existing theories of planet formation. How did this enormous roasting behemoth of a world get so near its roiling, broiling celebrity? After all, 51 Pegasi b probably roasts at over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit–a searing-hot temperature which makes the world glow red like a toaster coil.

New theories needed to be invented to explain how this colossal scorcher was able to get to where astronomers found it. However, nobody knew whether the world always was this close to 51 Pegasi, or even what it was made of. Some theorists suggested that 51 Pegasi b is basically one big molten rock. Others suggested that the world–such as our own Jupiter–is a gas-giant which was born 100 times further from its star, and has been bounced toward 51 Pegasi via a near-catastrophic brush with an undiscovered second world or companion star.

Yet a third theory hypothesized that the world was born in a distance from its star comparable to Jupiter’s average distance from our Sun. According to this concept, 51 Pegasi b gradually lost energy because of interactions with the disc of gas and dust from which it was created. The infant world, alas, was doomed to stunt from its remote place of arrival to where it currently roasts miserably in its close-in orbit.

According to this version, 51 Pegasi b is but one of several planets which were born in the cooler, outer areas of the disk. However, in the event of 51 Pegasi b, a tragedy was averted, and the world was spared the fate of its doomed sister worlds. The behemoth world did not crash down to the oven of its murderous parent-star. On the contrary, it was spared–just in the nick of time–from this dreadful fate. So, now, 51 Pegasi b, orbits its parent-star quickly and shut–baking gradually in its hell-like orbit.

This tragic “death march of the planets” likely happens over the span of a couple hundred thousand years. How a planet might actually survive such a tragedy likely depends, some theorists suggest, how late it started to march.

If an entire generation of unlucky planets dropped into a horrible death from the roiling furnace of 51 Pegasi before 51 Pegasi b came marching along, another generation of planets could now be spiraling in from more distant orbits.

These so-called sexy Jupiter worlds quickly orbit their parent stars–and these “roasters” could be inwardly spiraling gas-giants, doomed to be vaporized in the ovens of the merciless stellar parents.

RZ Piscium is situated approximately 550 light-years from our Solar System from the constellation Pisces. Throughout its cryptic dimming episodes–or “winks”–that can go on for as long as two weeks, the erratic star fades to become 10 times fainter. It follows that RZ Piscium is surrounded by a disk of warm dust. Indeed, about 8% of its total luminosity is in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This shows the presence of enormous amounts of dust.

“Our observations show there are massive blobs of gas and dust that sometimes block the star’s light and are likely spiraling into it

These observations, along with many others, have led some astronomers to arrive at the conclusion that RZ Piscium is a young Sun-like star surrounded by a heavily populated asteroid belt, where regular smash-ups pulverize the rocky asteroids to dust. However, the evidence supporting this version is far from apparent.

An alternate scenario indicates that the odd “winking” celebrity isn’t young, but is rather older than our 4.56 billion year old middle-aged Sun. According to this viewpoint, RZ Piscium is only beginning its transition to the red giant stage of its existence, transitioning from middle-age to be a senior leading citizen. Stars like our Sun, when they’ve burned their full necessary source of nuclear-fusing fuel, swell to monstrous proportions to turn into a bloated red giant star.

Because of this, those astronomers proposing the “winking” celebrity is no longer youthful needed another source of dust to describe the star’s infrared glow. Since the aging superstar is ballooning in size, it would destroy any unfortunate planets located in close orbits. The destruction of those tragic worlds might be the origin of the tremendous quantity of surrounding dust.

That’s the question! According to Kristina Punzi, the solution is that it’s a bit of both.

The group of astronomers analyzed the “winking” star with the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) XMM-Newton satellite, the Shane 3-meter telescope in Lick Observatory in California, along with the 10-meter Keck I telescope in W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

A young star is often a prodigious supply of X-rays. The group used 11 hours of XMM-Newton observations to be able to make their discovery that RZ Piscium is, similarly, an abundant supply of X-rays. The star’s surface is roughly 9,600 degrees Fahrenheit, making it just marginally cooler than that of our Sun. The group also demonstrated that the celebrity is enriched from the tattle-tale element lithium. Lithium is gradually destroyed by nuclear reactions in stars.

“The quantity of lithium in a star’s surface declines as it ages, so it acts as a clock that enables us to estimate the elapsed time as a star’s birth. Our lithium dimension for RZ Piscium is average for a star of its own surface temperature that’s about 30 to 50 million years old,” explained study co-author Dr. Joel Kastner at the December 21, 2017 NASA Press Release.

Therefore, although RZ Piscium is young, it’s still too old to be surrounded by such a wealth of dust and gas. “Many Sun-like stars have lost their planet-forming discs within a few million years of the arrival. The fact that RZ Piscium hosts so much dust and gas after tens of millions of years means it is probably destroying, as opposed to building, planets,” explained team member Dr. Ben Zuckerman at precisely the identical NASA Press Release.

Observations conducted with ground-based instruments also probed the “winking” celebrity’s environment, discovering signs that the dust is accompanied by large amounts of gas. Dependent on the temperature of the dust, which is approximately 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the astronomers reasoned that a large part of the debris is orbiting approximately 30 million kilometers from RZ Piscium.

“While we believe the majority of the debris is about as near the star as the planet Mercury ever gets to our Sun, the measurements provide evidence that substance is equally falling inward toward the star and also flowing outward,” explained another research co-author Dr. Carl Melis at the December 21, 2017 NASA Press Release.

The astronomers think that the best explanation that accounts for all the available data is that the star is surrounded by debris left behind as tattle-tale proof of a leading disaster. It’s likely that the star’s tides might be draining material from a nearby substellar companion or giant world, thus producing irregular flows of gas and dust. Or, alternatively, it’s possible the companion has been completely vaporized. Another potential explanation is that one of the massive gas-rich planets occupying the remote stellar system underwent a catastrophic crash from the astronomically recent past.

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