Academic journal article Science and Children

The Dark Past of the 'Death Star'

Academic journal article Science and Children

The Dark Past of the 'Death Star'

Article excerpt

Researchers recently discovered a rare planetary system with a host star similar to Earth's Sun, finding that the star's unusual composition indicates it ingested some of its planets. Unlike the planet-destroying Death Star in Star Wars, this natural version could provide clues about how planetary systems evolve over time. Astronomers discovered the first planet orbiting a star other than the Sun in 1995. Since then, more than 2,000 exoplanets have been identified. It's rare to find planets that orbit a star similar to Earth's Sun. These so-called solar twins are ideal targets for investigating the connections between stars and their planets due to their similarity to the Sun.

The researchers studied Star HIP68468, which is 300 light-years away, as part of a multiyear project to discover planets that orbit solar twins. Computer simulations show that billions of years from now, the accumulated gravitational tugs and pulls between planets will eventually cause Mercury to fall into the Sun, says Debra Fischer, a professor of astronomy at Yale University, who was not involved in the research. …

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