Study of ‘twin’ stars finds some of them are planet-devourers


An artist’s impression shows an Earth-like planet being captured by a binary star in this handout illustration obtained by Reuters on March 20, 2024. — Reuters

A new study involving at least 91 pairs of binary stars shows that these planetary bodies with matching sizes and chemical compositions have shown signs of engulfing planets.

According to scientists, Reuters According to reports, this event may have occurred after the planet was sent out of its equilibrium orbit for a number of different reasons.

Over its roughly 4.5 billion years of existence, Earth and its sibling planets that are part of a system of planets orbiting the sun have remained stable. But this latest discovery suggests that other planetary systems are not so lucky.

The study looked at pairs of stars that formed in the same interstellar cloud of gas and dust (so-called costars), which have the same chemical composition and are roughly equal in mass and age. This is “twin”. Although these two pairs of stars are moving in the same direction within our galaxy, they are not a binary system consisting of two stars gravitationally bound to each other.

When a star engulfs a planet, its chemical composition changes because it contains the elements that made up this doomed world. The researchers looked for stars that differed from the twins because they contained more elements such as iron, nickel or titanium relative to certain other elements, indicating the remnants of rocky planets.

“It’s the difference in elemental abundance between two stars in a contemporaneous system,” said astronomer Fan Liu of Monash University in Australia and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature .

In seven of the pairs, one of the two stars has evidence of planetary engulfment.

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Possible causes of a planet falling into its host star and dying include orbital perturbations caused by a larger planet, or another star coming too close, destabilizing the planetary system, the researchers said.

“This really allows us to see our fortuitous place in the universe,” said study co-author Yuansen Ding, an astrophysicist at Australian National University and Ohio State University. “The stability of a planetary system like our own is not a given. “



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By Ali Raza

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