Today’s Video of the Day from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center describes the first observation of a white dwarf star ripping apart the rocky and icy material of its planetary system. A white dwarf is a remnant of a dead star that has burned through all of the hydrogen that it once used as nuclear fuel.
When a star like the sun begins to die it expands into a “red giant” and then begins to lose mass as it sheds its outer layers. This alters the gravitational pull that the star has on its planetary system.
Scientists have determined that our sun will reach the end of its life in approximately ten billion years. In about five billion years, the sun will become a red giant. This expansion is expected to completely vaporize Mars, Venus, and Earth.
According to NASA, the star’s death throes have so violently disrupted its planetary system that the dead star is siphoning off debris from both the system’s inner and outer reaches. The agency says that data from the Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA observatories were essential in identifying this “cosmic cannibalism.”
“The findings help describe the violent nature of evolved planetary systems and can tell astronomers about the makeup of newly forming systems,” reports NASA.
Video/ Image Credit: NASA Goddard