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'We're watching a solar system get destroyed': NASA spots real-life Death Star pulverizing a planet 570 light-years away

An actual Death Star is pulverizing a planet in a system far, far away. Astronomers have spotted a large rocky object collapsing as it spirals towards a distant white dwarf star while being torn apart by gravity. White dwarfs are the hot leftovers of sun-like stars at the end of their lifespan that have swollen up and discarded their external coatings. Chief researcher Andrew Vanderburg, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, said: “This is something no human has seen before. We're watching a solar system get destroyed.” The white dwarf acting as a Death Star in the film Star Wars is almost 570 light-years from Planet Earth in the constellation Virgo. By means of NASA’s Kepler space telescope, researchers spotted the hopeless planetary object from the rise and fall in brightness triggered when an orbiting body crosses in front of a star.

It was the first such body to be observed “transiting” a white dwarf, they stated in the journal Nature. The data showed a steady dip every 4.5 hours, which places the object in an orbit roughly 520,000 miles from the white dwarf. Evidence proposes the planetoid has almost the same mass as Ceres, the biggest body in the asteroid belt of our solar system. Merging all the data, they found marks of numerous extra chunks of material, all in orbits between 4.5 and 5 hours. This specifies the occurrence of a debris disc and the white dwarf's “pollution” by heavy metals extracted from its rocky victim. PhD student Mr Vanderburg, said “We now have a 'smoking gun' linking white dwarf pollution to the destruction of rocky planets,”

When a star, like our sun, reaches the end of its life, it surges into a red giant and rips off its external layers. Theorists speculated that white dwarfs presenting sign of heavy metals turn out to be 'polluted' when they consumed rocky planets or asteroids.

Though, the proof was often indirect. A portion of polluted white dwarfs presented signs of adjacent debris disks, but the source of the disks was uncertain.

This system displays all three: a polluted white dwarf, a neighboring debris disk, and at least one dense, rocky object.

What is positive is that the residual objects will not last forever.

They are being vaporized by the extreme heat of the white dwarf. They also are circling very close to the tidal radius, or distance at which gravitational tides from the white dwarf can tear apart a rocky object.

This system show the future of our solar system. Scientists say that, in the situation of Earth's solar system, the sun will grow to consume Mercury, Venus and probably Earth in about 5 billion years just like in this system.

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