POLITICS

Cosmic cannibalism! Dead star caught ripping up planetary system, here’s more about ‘white dwarf’

Reported By:Parul Sharma| Edited By: Parul Sharma |Source: DNA Web Desk |Updated: Jun 16, 2022, 08:51 PM IST

A rare cosmic phenomenon has caught the attention of astronomers and researchers across the globe. Archival data derived from the Hubble Space Technology and other NASA observatories has unveiled that a white dwarf star is siphoning off debris from both the inner and outer corners of entire planetary system.

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The white dwarf is known as the remains of a dead star when it sheds out its outer layers and stops burning fuel via nuclear fusion.

Interestingly, this cosmic cannibalism is a unique phenomenon that scientists have observed for the first time. According to researchers, the white dwarf star is coming the rock-metallic

and icy material, which are the ‘ingredients of planets’.

Researchers have drawn these conclusions based on the analysis of material captured by the atmosphere of the nearby white dwarf star G238-44.

Details about this rare phenomenon were shared by the Lead researcher and University of California, Los Angeles graduate via a press statement. He said, “We have never seen both of these kinds of objects accreting onto a white dwarf at the same time. By studying these white dwarfs, we hope to gain a better understanding of planetary systems that are still intact”.


Notably, icy objects like these are often credited for crashing into dry rocky planets in the space. These comets are said to irrigate planets and have also delivered water to Earth billions of years ago.

Further assessment of the bodies attracted by the white dwarf unveils that such icy reservoirs might be quite dense.

According to UCLA professor and co-author Benjamin Zuckerman, “Life as we know it requires a rocky planet covered with a variety of elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. The abundances of the elements we see on this white dwarf appear to require both a rocky and a volatile-rich parent body – the first example we’ve found among studies of hundreds of white dwarfs.”


Based on the current planetary system evolution theories, the transition of a red giant star into a white dwarf star is a chaotic process. The stars lose their outer layers and the orbits of their planets also undergo significant changes. Thereafter, smaller cosmic objects like asteroids and dwarf planets often come too close towards the star.

According to the new study, within 100 million years after starting their white dwarf phase, these stars are able to capture and consume material from regions like our asteroid belt and Kuiper belt. However, the estimated total mass consumed may be similar to the mass of an asteroid or small noon.

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