The Hindu Business Line

ASTRONOMY Planet-ingesting ‘Death star’ spotted

It may have ‘eaten’ planets equivalent to the mass of six Earths


In a recent research, a team of scientists from the University of Chicago has made the rare discovery of a planetary system with a host star similar to Earth’s sun.

Published in the Astronomy and Astrophysi­cs journal, what’s most intriguing about the research is the star’s unusual compositio­n, which indicates it ingested some of its planets.

“It doesn’t mean that the sun will ‘eat’ the Earth any time soon. But our discovery provides an indication that violent histories may be common for planetary systems, including our own,” said Jacob Bean, co-author of the study.

Unlike the artificial planetdest­roying Death Star in the movie Star Wars, this natural version could provide clues about how planetary systems evolve over time.

The team studied star HIP68468, which is 300 light years away, as part of a multiyear project to discover planets that orbit solar twins.

The star’s compositio­n points to a history of ingesting planets. It contains four times more lithium than would be expected for a star that is 6 billion years old, as well as a surplus of refractory elements — metals resistant to heat and that are abundant in rocky planets.

Taken together, the lithium and the engulfed rocky planet material in the atmosphere of HIP68468 is equivalent to the mass of six Earths.

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