Shard of Shattered Alien Planet Spotted Around Dead Star

Space.com | 4/4/2019 | Mike Wall
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The killer of this alien planet left a significant piece of evidence behind.

Astronomers have spotted a decent-size object in the disk of dusty debris surrounding a superdense stellar corpse known as a white dwarf, a new study reports.

Newfound - Part - World - Destroyed - Star

The newfound "planetesimal" is likely part of a world destroyed during the star's death throes, study team members said. And the fragment's incredibly tight orbit — it zips around the white dwarf once every 123 minutes — suggests that the chunk may even be a piece of the shattered planet's core.

"The planetesimal we have discovered is deep into the gravitational well of the white dwarf, much closer to it than we would expect to find anything still alive," study co-author Boris Gaensicke, a physics professor at the University of Warwick in England, said in a statement.

Iron - Body - Iron - Strength - Fragment

"If it was pure iron, it could survive where it lives now, but equally it could be a body that is rich in iron but with internal strength to hold it together, which is consistent with the planetesimal being a fairly massive fragment of a planet core," Gaensicke added. "If [this idea is] correct, the original body was at least hundreds of kilometers in diameter, because it is only at that point planets begin to differentiate — like oil on water — and have heavier elements sink to form a metallic core."

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy, including our own sun, will eventually collapse into white dwarfs after they burn through all of their nuclear fuel. If such stars are big enough initially, they'll get to this endpoint after passing through a "red giant" phase, in which they bloat to tremendous sizes.

Study - Today - April - Journal - Science

The new study, which was published online today (April 4) in the journal Science, was led by Christopher Manser, a physics research fellow...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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