Astronomer have discovered a real-life 'Death Star' in the act of destroying a planet and is continuing its vicious journey. Last year astronomers by using the Very Large Telescope in Chile discovered an asteroid being torn apart by a white dwarf - a small star that has 'run out of fuel' - and creating a blushing debris ring. Now, astronomers believe that it may have 'eaten' at least 15.
Image Credit: Mark A. Garlick
The discovery has delivered an insight of what is expected to happen to our own solar system when the sun runs out of its fuel. Lead author Boris Gänsicke, an astronomer at the University of Warwick, told Space.com “Our sun will one day balloon out to become a red giant star, wiping out Mercury and Venus and maybe Earth, before it becomes a white dwarf. By looking at this white dwarf, we get a look at what the future of the solar system might be like”
This dead star, rampaging through the universe, is a white dwarf known as WD 1145+017. According to the research paper published on Feb. 3 in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, WD 1145+017 lies almost 570 light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.
Gänsicke discovered that this killer white dwarf system has swiftly evolved in the just a few months since the discovery. Gänsicke said “It's exciting and unexpected that we can see this kind of dramatic change on human timescales” Instead of discovering strong indication of just one body around the white dwarf The team 'identified six, but there are clearly more — it could be 10, maybe 15.’ Gänsicke said.
These bodies are circling the dead star at about the similar distance as the planetesimal that previous investigation spotted, and are each two to four times the size of the white dwarf. Astronomers suggest that these bodies are not huge, solid rocks, but instead are enormous clouds of gas and dust rolling from much smaller rocks that are now disintegrating.
Gänsicke and his associates plan on investigating this white dwarf system further.