adip – Astronomers have discovered a blinking star
At a distance of 550 light-years from Earth, there is a star much like our Sun, except that this star has a strange habit of blinking, and with completely irregular intervals of time. The instability of the brightness of this star, according to the results of recent studies, is a consequence of the presence in the nearby space of fairly dense clouds of dust and gas, which, according to scientists, are traces of a planetary catastrophe or a series of such catastrophes.
The star in question is called RZ Piscium and its darkening periods can last up to two Earth days. During these periods, the brightness of the star’s glow decreases by 10 times, but the amount of infrared radiation from this star remains almost unchanged, which signals to astronomers about the presence of huge dust clouds around the star.
Such effects are quite often observed in young systems, where a young star is surrounded by a dense protoplanetary disk, inside which the planets of the future system are just beginning to emerge. Similarly, something similar is observed in the completely opposite case, when an old star passes to the last stage of its life cycle. Growing in size and turning into a red giant, this star destroys the planets of its system, creating clouds of dust and gas.
However, in the case of the star RZ Piscium, there is a clear paradox. This star is no longer young enough to have a protoplanetary disk in its system. On the other hand, it is not yet old enough to start turning into a red giant star.
The age of the star RZ Piscium was determined by astronomers from the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles, by measuring the amount of X-rays from this star. The X-ray level of the star RZ Piscium, measured by the XMM-Newton space telescope, is a thousand times higher than the level of X-rays emitted by the Sun. At the same time, the surface temperature of this star is 5,330 degrees Celsius, which is slightly less than the temperature on the surface of the Sun. Among other things, there are clear lines in the star’s light spectrum that correspond to the lithium spectrum. All these factors indicate the age of the star, which has long been not classified as a young star, but is still very far from old age.
“The amount of lithium in the star’s material serves as a kind of clock that allows us to determine the time that has elapsed since its birth,” says Joel Kastner, lead researcher, ” All the parameters of the star RZ Piscium fully correspond to the parameters of a star between 30 and 50 million years old.”
Scientists know that in stars like the Sun, the protoplanetary disk ceases to exist after a few million years. And the star RZ Piscium, according to scientists, actively destroys the nascent planets around it, instead of contributing to this, as in most other known cases.
Observations made from Earth revealed that the temperature of the gas and dust surrounding the star RZ Piscium is about 230 degrees Celsius. This, in turn, means that the clusters of matter are quite close to the star, no more than 50 million kilometers away, which corresponds to the distance from the Sun to Mercury. At the same time, gas and dust clouds do not have a clear shape, they contain flows directed both in the direction of the star and in the opposite direction. Astronomers believe that the situation in the region of the star RZ Piscium is too chaotic for the age of the system as a whole, and the cause of this chaos may be the processes of destruction of the forming planets.
The most likely scenario in this case is the process of destruction of a huge hot gas planet, similar to Jupiter, which began to form near the star RZ Piscium. However, there are several other options that are suitable for explaining the observed phenomenon. And the final points over the “I” will be placed by scientists only after conducting additional observations and analyzing all the data obtained.