"It is a little bit like a Tiramisu or a Capuccino," says Luca Pasquini from ESO, lead-author of the paper reporting the results. "There is cocoa powder only on the top!'
Just a few years after the discovery of the first exoplanet it became evident that planets are preferentially found around stars that are enriched in iron. Planet-hosting stars are on average almost twice as rich in metals than their counterparts with no planetary system.
The immediate question is whether this richness in metals enhances planet formation, or whether it is caused by the presence of planets. The classic chicken and egg problem. In the first case, the stars would be metal-rich down to their centre. In the second case, debris from the planetary system would have polluted the star and only the external layers would be affected by this pollution.
When observing stars and taking spectra, astronomers indeed only see the outer layers and can't make sure the whole star has the same composition. When planetary debris fall onto a star, the material will stay in the outer parts, polluting it and leaving traces in the spectra taken.
A team of astronomers has decided to tackle this question by looking at a different kind of stars: red giants. These are stars that, as will the Sun in several billion years, have exhausted the hydrogen in their core. As a result, they have puffed up, becoming much larger and cooler.
Looking at the distribution of metals in fourteen planet-hosting giants, the astronomers found that their distribution was rather different from normal planet-hosting stars.
"We find that evolved stars are not enriched in metals, even when hosting planets," says Pasquini. "Thus, the anomalies found in planet-hosting stars seem to disappear when they get older and puff up!"
Looking at the various options, the astronomers conclude that the most likely explanation lies in the difference in the structure between red giants and solar-like stars: the size of the convective zone, the region where all the gas is completely mixed. In the Sun, this convective zone comprises only 2% of the star's mass. But in red giants, the convective zone is huge, encompassing 35 times more mass. The polluting material would thus be 35 times more diluted in a red giant than in a solar-like star.
"Although the interpretation of the data is not straightforward, the simplest explanation is that solar-like stars appear metal-rich because of the pollution of their atmospheres," says co-author Artie Hatzes, Director of the Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg (Germany) where some of the data were obtained.
When the star was still surrounded by a proto-planetary disc, material enriched in more heavy elements would fall onto the star, thereby polluting its surface. The metal excess produced by this pollution, while visible in the thin atmospheres of solar-like stars, is completely diluted in the extended, massive atmospheres of the giants.
Henri Boffin | alfa
Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1
21.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Hochfrequenzphysik und Radartechnik FHR
Taming chaos: Calculating probability in complex systems
21.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences