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Astronomers with telescope in Chile discover cannibal star

Cannibal Star

An international team of researchers discovered a metallic scar on the surface of a white dwarf for the first time. This is a unique signature of the process that occurs when a Sun-like star dies and “swallows” the surrounding planets and asteroids that were born with it.

Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, the scar observed by the team was determined to be a concentration of metals imprinted on the surface of the star WD 0816-310, a remnant of the size of the Earth of a star, similar to the sun of our planetary system, but slightly larger.

“Some white dwarfs are known to cannibalize parts of their planetary systems. “We have now found that their magnetic field plays a key role in this process, leaving a scar on the white dwarf’s surface,” said Stefano Bagnulo, an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, and lead author of the study was published in The astrophysical diary letters.

“We have shown that these metals come from a planetary fragment that is the same size or possibly larger than the asteroid Vesta, which is about 500 kilometers in diameter and is the second largest in the solar system,” added another of the authors, Professor Jay Farihi , added at University College London.

To understand the dynamics of this so-called “cannibal star,” the authors used a multifunction instrument called FORS2 installed on the VLT, which allowed them to detect the metal scar and connect it to the star’s magnetic field.

“ESO has a unique combination of capabilities for observing faint objects such as white dwarfs and measuring magnetic fields,” Bagnulo explained.

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