For almost a hundred years, astronomers have been asking about the source of the peculiar variability of the young stars of the constellation Taurus-Auriga, which is about 450 light years away from Earth. But one star, in fact, has grabbed most of the researchers’ interest. This star possesses a unique feature, namely, once every few decades, its brightness suddenly dims for a brief period, after which it returns to its original state. However, a recent study might have an answer, as astronomers observed the young star devouring two newborn planets.
A team of scientists at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has spotted the star, called RW Aur A, with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, and they discovered strong proof of what might have triggered the latest darkening event. Accordingly, the star’s collision with two newborn planets caused the emergence of a cloud of dust, gas, and planetary debris that caused the star’s brightness to lower.
Astronomers studies how the young star is devouring newborn planets for the first time
“For a long time now, computer simulations have predicted that newly formed planets can fall on their young stars, but we have never seen that before,” asserted Hans Moritz Guenther, an MIT scientist and the study’s leading author.
If the astronomers got it right, this observation could be the first time when scientists witness a young star devouring its planets. Also, previous episodes of this star’s darkening might have been caused by similar events, the astronomers say, but “this is speculation,” as Guenther himself stated.
Researchers who explore early star development target the “dark clouds” of Taurus-Auriga, frequently. These “dark clouds” are thick clusters of multi-molecular clouds in the constellations of Taurus and Auriga, which are veritable “star nurseries” with thousands of newborn stars.
However, no observation was so spectacular than the one on RW Aur A young star devouring two newborn planets.