Astronomers have spotted a star devouring one of its planets for the first time. It is a stunning preview of our own planet’s fate, when, in roughly 5 billion years time, Earth too will likely be engulfed by our rapidly expanding sun.
The distant planet met its gory demise 13,000 light-years from Earth around a star that had quickly ballooned up to thousands of times its original size. Astronomers witnessed the hapless planet’s death as a distinctive white-hot flash of light that grew in intensity over 10 days.
By studying the light from the outburst, as well as the chemical signatures from the material burped out by the planet-devouring star, the scientists identified the consumed planet as a gas giant at least 30 times the size of Earth. Details of the first-of-its-kind observation were published May 3 in the journal Nature.
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