Skip navigation

“Star Wars” Roundup: From Science Fiction to Science Fact

By Maria Anderson

Pulverized planet dust might lie around double stars »

A planet like Star War’s Tatooine, which orbits twin suns, would have likely suffered from more than the scorching climate depicted in the film. According to a study using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, planets in tight double-star systems are very likely to collide with one another. Close-knit stars are similar to the sun in age and mass, but the NASA data reveals they orbit tightly around each other. With time, they are thought to get closer and closer, until their gravitational influences change, throwing the orbits of planetary bodies circling around them out of whack, leading to planetary collisions.

Artist’s concept illustrating an imminent planetary collision around a pair of double stars.

Artist’s concept illustrating an imminent planetary collision around a pair of double stars.

“Death Star” Shreds, Swallows Dwarf Planet »

Astronomers found a real-life “Death Star” (known as a white dwarf) that they believed shredded a rocky planet and was swallowing its dusty remains. The white dwarf had debris around it that was raining down onto the star’s surface, indicating the debris had been deposited relatively recently (in an astronomical sense). The most likely source was a rocky planet that wandered too close to the white dwarf and was torn apart by its gravitational forces.

This artist’s concept shows a white dwarf star surrounded by the bits and pieces of a disintegrating asteroid. Astronomers have found a white dwarf that shredded and gulped down an object the size of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle )

This artist’s concept shows a white dwarf star surrounded by the bits and pieces of a disintegrating asteroid. Astronomers have found a white dwarf that shredded and gulped down an object the size of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle )

Cosmic “Death Star” is Destroying a Planet »

Astronomers have finally found evidence linking debris around a white dwarf star to the destruction of rocky planets: They discovered a large, rocky asteroid disintegrating in a spiral around a distant dwarf star. The asteroid and its debris will not last long, as they are being vaporized by the intense heat of the white dwarf. They also are orbiting very close to the tidal radius, or distance at which gravitational tides from the white dwarf can rip apart a rocky body. Within the next million years or so, all that will remain of this rocky planet’s bits will be a thin metal dusting on top of an innocent-looking white dwarf star.

In this artist's conception, a Ceres-like asteroid is slowly disintegrating as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have spotted telltales signs of such an object using data from the Kepler K2 mission. It is the first planetary object detected transiting a white dwarf. Within about a million years the object will be destroyed, leaving a thin dusting of metals on the surface of the white dwarf. (Image by Mark A. Garlick)

In this artist’s conception, a Ceres-like asteroid is slowly disintegrating as it orbits a white dwarf star. Within about a million years the object will be destroyed, leaving a thin dusting of metals on the surface of the white dwarf. (Image by Mark A. Garlick)

From Star Wars to science fact: Tatooine-like planet discovered »

Scientist discovered a new planet, Kepler-16b, which is the closest astronomers have come to discovering Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine. Like Tatooine, Kepler-16b enjoys a double sunset as it circles a pair of stars approximately 200 light-years from Earth. The orange (type K) and red (type M) stars orbit each other every 41 days, while the planet Kepler-16b orbits them both every 229 days at a distance of 65 million miles. Kepler-16b is similar to Saturn in size and mass, with a surface temperature of about -100 to -150 degrees Fahrenheit.

hires

 

Tags: , , ,

 
 

Spotlight

 
 

Snapshot