back to article Alien sun has smashing time sucking up planets

Scientists believe they have captured direct evidence of a star feasting on its own planets for the first time. RW Aur, a binary star system located in the Auriga constellation 450 light years from Earth, has long puzzled astronomers. The light from one of its stars, RW Aur A, repeatedly dims and flickers back to life every …

  1. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Reminds me of King Edward II

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Yeah, he certainly cashed in his chips.

  2. borkbork

    Planet definintion?

    Slamming into one another and their star doesn't exactly scream 'stable orbit' for these celetial bodies.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Planet definintion?

      Well our solar system started in a similar manner.

      If some planetoid hadn't slammed into Earth, we wouldn't have the Moon.

      And in the early days of our Solar System, everything was being bombarded by asteroids.

      So pretty exciting times back then. Things have largely calmed down now, after a few billion years.

      We should check back on this star in a billion years or two, to see how the situation evolves.

  3. Solarflare

    "First case of solar suckage"

    That is slander against my good name and I will not stand for it!

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "First case of solar suckage"

      If you won't stand for it, you could always kneel.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "First case of solar suckage"

      Ok, so we acknowledge your claim and restore to you your rightful title. This would then be the second case of Solar suckage. You are legitimately the first case of solar suckage.

    3. The_Idiot

      Re: "First case of solar suckage"

      Well, technically I'd have thought a flare more of a spit than a suck - but I may be wrong (blush).

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coat

    Could be worse

    I read somewhere about an entire planet that got used as a ball in a game of intergalactic bar billiards. It got potted straight into a black hole. It only scored thirty points.

    Sorry, I'll get me coat

    Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to the late great Douglas Adams

  5. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Saturn...

    devouring his children

    This is probably something that happens for a brief period in all star development periods and we're just lucky enough to see it in action here.

    unlike humans, Iron is bad for stars. don't eat too much boyo.

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: Saturn...

      > "This is probably something that happens for a brief period in all star development..."

      Very brief, if we're seeing substantial dimming every couple of decades. On the stellar development timescale that's extremely rapid activity.

  6. Craig 2

    Curious as to what happens to planetary material sucked into stars. Does it become effectively more fuel for the star or can elements remain?

    1. LeeE Silver badge

      Re: what happens to planetary material sucked into stars

      You need to remember the difference in scale between a star and a planet. In our solar system, with a not particularly large star, Sol accounts for 99.86% of the mass of the entire system, with the four gas giants accounting for just ~0.1386% of the total.

      So, compared with a star, even gas giants are tiny and the amount of hydrogen they could deliver as potential fusion fuel is negligible. Rocky planets aren't even worth thinking about..

      Having said that, there will be systems where you have a very small red dwarf orbited by a large brown dwarf, where the BD could be a significant fraction of the mass of the RD.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: what happens to planetary material sucked into stars

        "In our solar system, with a not particularly large star, Sol accounts for 99.86% of the mass of the entire system, with the four gas giants accounting for just ~0.1386% of the total."

        Or to put it another way "The solar system consists of the Sun, Jupiter and assorted debris"

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: what happens to planetary material sucked into stars

          "The solar system consists of the Sun, Jupiter and assorted debris"

          And it's a binary system, what with the barycentre being somewhere between the two.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Does it become effectively more fuel for the star or can elements remain?

      The elements certainly remain. Everything will eventually find its way down to the fusion surface on the core. Only when the star is most of the way through its life will it start fusing anything heavier than hydrogen: first helium, then carbon, and maybe oxygen and nitrogen (or silicon/sulphur) if it's massive enough. Shortly after that (cosmically speaking) it goes bang.

  7. Alistair Silver badge

    I think this star

    -- read about black holes on the interwebs, and it is now practising at home...

    -- next thing you know it will be posting instagram videos of itself trying to consume tide pods.

    1. Martin Budden

      Re: I think this star

      "consume tide pods"

      Fairly accurate description of what's happening. Tidal forces, and all that.

  8. The Nazz Silver badge

    I'm confused again

    FTA "The light from one of its stars, RW Aur A, repeatedly dims and flickers back to life every few decades. But recently, the cycles have been happening more frequently and last longer than usual."

    Huh? More frequently yet each one lasts longer than previously?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: I'm confused again

      When initially observed, the star used to dim for a short time, then be bright for a decade or so.

      Since 1937 it's been dim for about a month, then bright again every 10-20 years or so.

      In 2011 it was dim for about six months.

      In mid-2014 it was dim for a little over two years.

      In Jan 2017 it dimmed again, and hasn't brightened yet.

      So the length of time spent "dim" is getting longer, while the period between dimming events is becoming shorter.

      - The press release is a bit vague on the events between 1937 and 2011 though.

  9. Brux Antipodeus

    Really?

    You mean RW Aur A feasts on its own planets more than once? Really? Well I guess that is how it got its name RW Aur A Mantis

    Brux Antipodeus

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