Somebody phone Luke Skywalker, because star HIP68468 appears to have eaten at least one planet, leading astronomers to dub it “The Death Star.”
Astronomers detected high quantities of lithium in The Death Star’s atmosphere, along with other elements that are associated with rocky planets. However, the star was far too old to have any naturally occurring lithium, so a fresh batch must have been recently added.
Taking into account the observed quantity of lithium, the researchers were able to deduce that an entire planet was likely eaten by the star. The planet in question would have to be roughly six times larger than Earth, but extremely rocky, similar to “super-Earth” worlds regularly detected by astronomers. The planet was likely sucked into the Death Star using the force … of gravity.
“It’s as if we saw a cat sitting next to a bird cage,” Dr. Debra Fischer, an astronomer at Yale University, said in a press statement. “If there are yellow feathers sticking out of the cat’s mouth, it’s a good bet that the cat swallowed a canary.”
The Death Star currently has at least two more planets in its system which it could potentially consume. These include a large gaseous planet, approximately 50 percent bigger than Neptune, and a “super-Earth” world. The super-Earth orbits extremely close to its host star, completing one orbit every three days.
HIP68468 is roughly 300 light years away from Earth, which is fairly close in galactic terms.
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