Star that ‘pulls planets apart’ may hold key to understanding early solar system | Science | News

The discovery may shed light on a brief yet volatile period in the history of many solar systems, including our own.

Study co-author Catherine Pilachowski said: “We know it’s not uncommon for planets to migrate inward in young solar systems since we’ve found so many solar systems with ‘hot Jupiters’—gaseous planets similar in size to Jupiter but orbiting very close to their stars.

“This is a very interesting phase in the evolution of planetary systems, and we’re lucky to catch a solar system in the middle of the process since it happens so quickly compared to the lifetimes of stars.”

The star, known as RZ Piscium is located in the constellation Pisces.

The material near the star is being slowly pulled apart to create small circle of debris which is roughly the same distance from the star as Mercury’s orbit is from the sun.

Professor Pilachowski said: “Based on our observations, it seems either that we’re seeing a fairly massive, gaseous planet being pulled apart by the star, or perhaps two gas-rich planets that have collided and been torn apart.”

The research is responsible for determining the gravitational strength near RZ Piscium’s surface.

The findings concerning the star’s radius and brightness both suggest RZ Piscium is a young star amidst unstable planets.

Researchers were initially unsure of RZ Piscium’s age.

However, the amount of lithium in the star detected as a result of this research indicates that it is 30 million to 50 million years old, making it relatively young.

Lithium levels can be used by astronomers to estimate a star’s age because the element declines over time.

Researchers have also found that the star’s temperature is around 5330C, making it only slightly cooler than the sun.

The fact the star produces X-rays at a rate roughly 1,000 times greater than the sun is also a sign of its relative youth.

Dr Pilachowski said: “This discovery really gives us a rare and beautiful glimpse into what happens to many newly formed planets that don’t survive the early dynamical chaos of young solar systems.

“It helps us understand why some young solar systems survive—and some don’t.”

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