Older stars “massacre” often nearby planets, recent research shows, and this might be the fate of Earth: toward the end of his life, the Sun will destroy the Earth, breaking it into pieces. (But that could happen only after a long time – billions of years.) A study of older stars shows that they can destroy planets around, smashing them under the action of gravity which it develops.
The study shows that there are many planets that scientists called them “hot Jupiters”: they are huge planets that orbit their star at distances closer than Mercury is to the Sun.
However, such “hot Jupiters” are rarely seen around other stars called old sub-gigantic, who spent fuel and when “inflated” they become several times larger than they were original.
Researchers believe that this is because these ‘inflated’ stars were about two times larger than the sun when they were young, and this could influence the distance at which their planets were formed.
To test this hypothesis, Kevin Schlaufman and Joshua Winn of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have sought positions of 142 stars with planets around systems in our galaxy.
Stars are formed into groups (clusters) which are dispersed in time. Massive stars are consumed faster, by burning, so older populations of stars of this type are “collected” and are more closely grouped.
But researchers have found that stars with sub-gigantic planets are scattered around, which means that are older than previously thought, and this leads to the conclusion that these stars were probably in his youth, about the same size as our Sun.
“In conclusion”, says Schlaufman, “is about the same type of stars, but at two different times of their lives: young stars have hot Jupiters, old sub-gigantic stars have not. There is something that has led to the disappearance of planets around these old stars”.
“The best conclusion is that, as it inflates the stars exert extremely high gravitational forces of nearby planets until they break”.
Finally, it could be the fate of the Earth, when the Sun will become a red giant, over 6 billion years says Schlaufman.
“Once we have left this planet, tourists will no longer come to see this piece of stone that was once Terra,” he says. “But I’m sure people over 6 billion years they will have other problems to deal with”.
Source: New Scientist / Imagine: M. Weiss/CXC/NASA