Science

Scientists Get A Terrifying Look At How Stars Like Our Sun Are Eating Their Planets

Scientists have long known that one day the Sun will turn into a red giant and swallow the nearest planets. A new study is now looking into how these devoured planets may be affecting processes inside a dying star.

When the cores of stars the size of the Sun run out of hydrogen, they turn into red giants that can be more than ten times the size of the original star. When these red giants gobble up the planets that orbit them, anything can happen.

A new study claims that swallowing large planets 10 times or more the size of Jupiter could cause a star to lose its shell and increase its brightness by several orders of magnitude within a few thousand years.

Related: Scientists discover elusive mini-red giants victim of stellar theft

The study was carried out using a technique called hydrodynamic modeling and provides a glimpse into possible future scenarios for the evolution of our solar system. Due to the size of the red giants, the researchers had to model only a small section of the boundary where stars meet planets to gain a deeper understanding of the interactions.

“Evolved stars can be hundreds or even thousands of times larger than their planets, and this scale mismatch makes it difficult to run simulations that accurately model the physical processes that occur at each scale,” Ricardo Jarza, astronomy graduate student at New York University. California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the study, the statement said. (will open in a new tab). “Instead, we model a small patch of the star centered on the planet to understand the flow around the planet and measure the drag forces acting on it.”

The results may not only give a glimpse of what will happen in 5 billion years when our Sun becomes a red giant, but also explain recent discoveries of planets orbiting white dwarfs, the burnt-out stellar corpses that stars become after a red giant. giant phase.

These studies examining the final stages of this planetary engulfment suggest that some planets may survive being burned by red giants.

In our solar system, the nearest planets to the Sun, Mercury and Venus, are expected to be completely absorbed by the rising Sun. The earth, although it can survive, will be so scorched that it will become completely uninhabitable. Some of the more distant and currently freezing bodies, such as Jupiter, Saturn and their moons, could create more favorable conditions for life near the exploding Sun.

While only a few planets have been observed so far that likely survived being swallowed up by red giants, the researchers believe that further exoplanet research will lead to more such discoveries.

“We believe [planetary engulfment] is relatively common,” Yarza said.

The study has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal and is available at the arxiv online repository. (will open in a new tab).

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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