Astronomers: ‘death star’ has devoured 15 Earth sized worlds

Astronomers: ‘death star’ has devoured 15 Earth sized worlds:

From PRINCETON UNIVERSITY and the “That’s no moon…” department:

Devourer of planets? Princeton researchers dub star ‘Kronos’

Sun-like star Kronos shows signs of having ingested 15 Earth masses worth of rocky planets, prompting Princeton astronomers to name it after the Titan who ate his children.

In mythology, the Titan Kronos devoured his children, including Poseidon (better known as the planet Neptune), Hades (Pluto) and three daughters.

So when a group of Princeton astronomers discovered twin stars, one of which showed signs of having ingested a dozen or more rocky planets, they named them after Kronos and his lesser-known brother Krios. Their official designations are HD 240430 and HD 240429, and they are both about 350 light years from Earth.

The keys to the discovery were first confirming that the widely separated pair are in fact a binary pair, and secondly observing Kronos’ strikingly unusual chemical abundance pattern, explained Semyeong Oh, a graduate student in astrophysical sciences who is lead author on a new paper describing Kronos and Krios. Oh works with David Spergel, the Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation and director of the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics.

Other co-moving star pairs have had different chemistries, Oh explained, but none as dramatic as Kronos and Krios.

Most stars that are as metal-rich as Kronos “have all the other elements enhanced at a similar level,” she said, “whereas Kronos has volatile elements suppressed, which makes it really weird in the general context of stellar abundance patterns.”

In other words, Kronos had an unusually high level of rock-forming minerals, including magnesium, aluminum, silicon, iron, chromium and yttrium, without an equally high level of volatile compounds — those that are most often found in gas form, like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and potassium.

H/t reader kevin a.

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