Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Missing Planets Attest to Destructive Power of Stars' Tides

29.04.2009
Astronomers have found hundreds of extrasolar planets in the last two decades, and new research indicates they might have found even more except for one thing – some planets have fallen into their stars and simply no longer exist.

During the last two decades, astronomers have found hundreds of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. New research indicates they might have found even more except for one thing – some planets have fallen into their stars and simply no longer exist.

The idea that gravitational forces might pull a planet into its parent star has been predicted by computer models only in the last year or so, and this is the first evidence that such planet destruction has already occurred, said University of Washington astronomer Rory Barnes.

"When we look at the observed properties of extrasolar planets, we can see that this has already happened – some extrasolar planets have already fallen into their stars," he said.

Computer models can show where planets should line up in a particular star system, but direct observations show that some systems are missing planets close to the stars where models say they should be.

Barnes, a postdoctoral astronomy researcher with the Virtual Planet Laboratory at the UW, is a co-author of a paper describing the findings that was accepted this month for publication in Astrophysical Journal. Lead author Brian Jackson and co-author Richard Greenberg are with the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona.

The research involves planets that are close to their parent stars. Such planets can be detected relatively easily by changes in brightness as their orbits pass in front of the stars.

But because they are so close to each other, the planet and star begin pulling on each other with increasingly strong gravitational force, misshaping the star's surface with rising tides from its gaseous surface.

"Tides distort the shape of a star. The bigger the tidal distortion, the more quickly the tide will pull the planet in," Jackson said.

Most of the planets discovered outside of our solar system are gas giants like Jupiter except that they are much more massive. However, earlier this year astronomers detected an extrasolar planet called CoRoT-7 B that, while significantly larger than our planet, is more like Earth than any other extrasolar planet found so far.

However, that planet orbits only about 1.5 million miles from its star, much closer than Mercury is to our sun, a distance that puts it in the category of a planet that will fall into its star. Its surface temperature is around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit "so it's not a pleasant environment," Barnes said, and in a short time cosmically – a billion years or so – CoRoT-7 B will be consumed.

The destruction is slow but inevitable, Jackson said.

"The orbits of these tidally evolving planets change very slowly, over timescales of tens of millions of years," Jackson said. "Eventually the planet's orbit brings it close enough to the star that the star's gravity begins tearing the planet apart.

"So either the planet will be torn apart before it ever reaches the surface of the star, or in the process of being torn apart its orbit eventually will intersect the star's atmosphere and the heat from the star will obliterate the planet."

The researchers hope the work leads to better understanding of how stars destroy planets and how that process might affect a planet's orbit, Jackson said.

The scientists also say their research will have to be updated as more extrasolar planets are discovered. NASA, which funded the research, recently launched the Kepler telescope, which is designed specifically to look for extrasolar planets that are closer in size to Earth.

Jackson hopes new observations will provide new lines of evidence to investigate how a star's tides can destroy planets.

"For example, the rotation rates of stars tend to drop, so older stars tend to spin more slowly than younger stars," he said. "However, if a star has recently consumed a planet, the addition of the planet's orbital angular momentum will cause the star to rapidly increase its spin rate. So we would like to look for stars that are spinning too fast for their age."

For more information, contact Barnes at 206-543-8979 or rory@astro.washington.edu; or Jackson at 520-626-3154 or bjackson@lpl.arizona.edu.

The paper is available at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0904.1170

Vince Stricherz | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A quantum spin liquid
24.10.2017 | Boston College

nachricht Single nanoparticle mapping paves the way for better nanotechnology
24.10.2017 | Chalmers University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Single nanoparticle mapping paves the way for better nanotechnology

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A quantum spin liquid

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Antibiotic resistance: a strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli is on the rise

24.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>