Sun-Like Star Eats Some Of Its Planets, Study Finds

First Posted: Dec 19, 2016 04:41 AM EST

A team of scientists found evidence that a distant star has eaten some of its planets. Dubbed as HIP68468, the star is located 300 lightyears away with similar features as the Earth's Sun in terms of temperature, age and composition.

Published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, the discovery came as a surprise and the international team of scientists suggests, based on the analysis of the solar twin's composition, that it has eaten some of the planetary residents in its system.

"It doesn't mean that the sun will 'eat' the Earth anytime soon," Jacob Bean, co-author of the study, said in a press release by the University of Chicago. "But our discovery provides an indication that violent histories may be common for planetary systems, including our own," he added.

The discovery of the planet-eating star could shed light on how planetary systems evolve over time. There have been thousands of exoplanets discovered since scientists started searching for them in 1995. However, it is unusual to discover planets that orbit a star similar to the Earth's Sun.

Scientists are focusing on these planets to determine the connections between stars and their planets. If ever, they could also find a planet similar to Earth that could support life.

Could This Mean The Sun Will Eat The Planets, Too?

HIP68468 is 6 billion years old and has excess lithium four times expected for a star its age. This shows that it has ingested a few planets from its recent past.

The researchers are still studying if this behavior of HIP68468 is a common outcome of the planet formation system. However, computer simulations show that billions of years from now, the gravitational pulls between the planets will eventually make Mercury fall into the Sun.

"This study of HIP68468 is a post-mortem of this process happening around another star similar to our sun. The discovery deepens our understanding of the evolution of planetary systems," Debra Fischer, a professor of astronomy at Yale University who was not involved in the research, said.

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