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Cannibal stars: a study reveals how part of the suns in our universe “eat” one or more of its planets

Stars that eat the planets that orbit them? That’s how it is. A study published in Nature Astronomy reveals how binary systems with two stars are similar to our Sun end up swallowing one or more of their planets.

The study reveals that there is a probability of between 20 and 35% of these types of systems have eaten any of their planets, a discovery that is relevant when trying to find habitable planets and systems in the future.

Only gluttons

It has been known for decades that on certain occasions the stars engulf their progenyWhile rocky planets are rich in heavy elements like iron, silicon, or titanium, stars are mostly made up of light materials like hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and carbon.

When a planet is “ingested” by a star, its heavy elements are just blurred by the outer layers of the star, making the light they emit slightly different and it can be detected if that star has actually ingested one or more planets.

That is precisely what a group of astrophysicists who have observed 107 binary systems formed by two stars similar to our Sun.

Theoretically in these systems both stars should be basically “twins”, but when studying them discovered how in 33 of those pairs one of the stars contained elevated levels of iron in comparison with the other, something that enhances the hypothesis that in these systems those stars have eaten one or more of the planets that orbited them.

The study indicates how the probability of this happening in stars similar to our Sun is between 20 and 35%, although it seems unlikely that this happened in the Sun, which contains hardly any heavy elements.

The discovery is remarkable in that it could help astronomers to rule out star systems that due to this phenomenon they have few options of having Earth-like planets in their orbit where life can exist.

Via | ScienceMag