The Hubble telescope catches a cannibal star at the moment of death

An impressive record captured the Hubble Space Telescope in the depths of outer space, since he rescued the image of a white dwarf star in the process of dying while performing an act of cannibalism.

The log analyzes the spectral properties of the white dwarf star G238-44 devouring rocky and icy material from its own system.

The white dwarf is all that remains after a Sun-like star has exhausted its nuclear fuel and expelled most of its outer material, decimating objects in the planetary system that orbit it.

Archival data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA observatories were essential in diagnosing this case of cosmic cannibalism. The findings help describe the violent nature of evolved planetary systems and can tell astronomers about the composition of newly formed systems.

“We have never seen these kinds of objects accreting on a white dwarf at the same time,” Ted Johnson said, principal investigator and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “By studying these white dwarfs, we hope to gain a better understanding of planetary systems that are still intact.”

“Life as we know it requires a rocky planet covered with a variety of elements such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen,” said Benjamin Zuckerman, a UCLA professor and co-author. “The abundances of the elements we see in this white dwarf appear to require both a rocky body and a volatile-rich parent body, the first example we have found among studies of hundreds of white dwarfs.”

This study confirms the true scale of this violent chaotic phase, showing that within 100 million years after the start of its white dwarf phase, the star is capable of simultaneously capturing and consuming material from its asteroid belt and asteroid-like regions. Kuiper belt.

The estimated total mass ultimately engulfed by the white dwarf in this study may be no more than the mass of an asteroid or small moon. While the presence of at least two objects that the white dwarf is consuming is not directly measured, it is likely that one is metal-rich like an asteroid and another is an icy body similar to what is found on the fringes of our solar system. in the Kuiper belt.

White dwarf cannibalism offers a unique opportunity to take planets apart and see what they were made of when they first formed around the star.

The team measured the presence of nitrogen, oxygen, magnesium, silicon and iron, among other elements. The detection of iron in very high abundance is evidence for metallic cores of terrestrial planets, such as Earth, Venus, Mars, and Mercury. The unexpectedly high abundances of nitrogen led them to conclude the presence of icy bodies. “The best match for our data was a nearly two-to-one mix of Mercury-like material and comet-like material, which is made up of ice and dust,” Johnson said. “Iron metal and nitrogen ice suggest very different conditions for planet formation. There is no known solar system object with as much of both.”

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