Science

Dead Stars May Hint Planet Formation

By Enozia Vakil , May 10, 2013 07:29 AM EDT
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Two dead stars may help scientists analyze how planets form, and how the solar system may have looked years ago.

Astronomers analyzing Hubble data have now noticed how useful pollution can prove to be on other planets, unlike the earth. A pair of white dwarfs, which is probably the tiniest part or form a star can take, are currently showing signs of pollution, with asteroid and planet-like debris falling on them.

These two dwarfs are located some 150 light years away from each other, as a part of the Hyades star cluster.

The study team discovered the presence of high silica concentrations in the atmosphere of these two stars, and with the presence of asteroid belts around them, the atmosphere there would resemble something out of science fiction movies, wherein the sky is typically raining rocks.

The astronomers currently analyzing this entire scenario are viewing this as a potential explanation of how planets may form, and as building blocks of exoplanets around these stars.

"The body responsible for [the silicon pollution] we see must have been an asteroid about 50-100km in size," Dr. Jay Farihi of the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy told the BBC's Material World programme on Radio 4.

Asteroids, which are basically what planets are actually composed of, bombard these stars, which, in later years, may lead to formation of a planet.

"The question of whether they retain those planets to this day is a little bit trickier. I would venture to say 'yes,' because we need large planets to push these rocks around so that they can get close to the star and pollute its atmosphere," Farihi says.

Computer modeling claims that as aging stars shed their outer layers over time, and lose mass to become a 'dwarf,' the sun of our solar system may suffer the same fate in the future.

In a few million years from now, possibly, the sun will use up all of its fuel, swell, and dump out a huge amount of its gaseous mass to become a small star. This may also causes a destabilization in the environment around it, which may affect the neighboring planets as well.

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