Cosmic "Death Star" is Destroying a Planet
Posted 22 October 2015 - 03:38 PM
. Astronomers announced today that they have spotted a large, rocky object disintegrating in its death spiral around a distant white dwarf star. The discovery also confirms a long-standing theory behind the source of white dwarf "pollution" by metals.
"This is something no human has seen before," says lead author Andrew Vanderburg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "We're watching a solar system get destroyed."
The evidence for this unique system came from NASA's Kepler K2 mission, which monitors stars for a dip in brightness that occurs when an orbiting body crosses the star. The data revealed a regular dip every 4.5 hours, which places the object in an orbit about 520,000 miles from the white dwarf (about twice the distance from the Earth to the Moon). It is the first planetary object to be seen transiting a white dwarf.
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