Astronomers have discovered a planetary system that is similar to our Solar System, but with one major difference – the host star of the newly discovered system has consumed some of its planets.
A team of astronomers including those from University of Chicago have revealed in a study published in the journal “Astronomy and Astrophysics” that the new planetary system with a predatory host star could reveal clues about how planetary systems evolve.
While there is a similarity between our Solar System and the newly discovered planetary system, researchers are quick to point out that our Sun isn’t going to consume Earth any time soon; however, the planetary system does reveal an aspect of planetary system evolution that involves violent past or future.
The star described in the study is HIP68468 located 300 light years away as part of a multi-year project to discover planets that orbit solar twins. The study of the star has been described as a sort of post-mortem of the planet formation and planetary evolution process as it is tricky to draw conclusions from a single system to study more stars like this to see whether this is a common outcome.
Researchers point out that their study has revealed a composition of HIP68468 that is indicative of the star having consumed nearby planets. It contains four times more lithium than would be expected for a star that is six billion years old, as well as a surplus of refractory elements — metals resistant to heat that are abundant in rocky planets,” the research found.
Scientists used the 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile to discover their first exoplanet in 2015. There have been more recent discoveries around the star – a planet that can be described as a super Neptune and the other one that can be described as a super Earth – but they need to be confirmed. Researchers say that their orbits are surprisingly close to their host star, with one 50 per cent more massive than Neptune and located at a Venus-like distance from its star.
The scientists said that these two planets most likely did not form where they see them today. Chances are that these planets were formed away from the star, but migrated inward from the outer parts of the planetary system. Other planets could have been ejected from the system — or ingested by their host star.