NASA's astronomers have photographed for the first time the destruction of a solar system. They say this cosmic event offers important clues about how the end of our planet could look.
NASA took these images as part of the Kepler-2 #Space mission. The images have revealed the remains of a planet that was destroyed. The destruction of this planet took place while orbiting around a dead star - a white dwarf - which is at a distance of 570 light years from Earth.
Fragments of the destroyed planet were seen performing a complete rotation around the white dwarf on an orbit around 836,800 km high (just over twice the distance between Earth and the Moon) every 4.5-5 hours.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics' researcher Andrew Vanderburg was amazed by this, saying that no one has ever seen something like this before - a solar system was destroyed in front of their eyes.
This cosmic catastrophe was observed by researchers from Vanderburg's team with the sensors mounted on the Kepler-2 space mission. These tools can detect the existence of new planets because of the regular light intensity changes that occur when the planets pass in front of the star around which they orbit, blocking part of its light.
The American scientists studied a white dwarf known as WD1145 + 017 and found that Kepler-2 detected a 40% decrease in the light emitted by this star every four and a half hours. Then measurements were made with other telescopes to confirm the initial observations. Whipple Observatory in Massachusetts, South Telescope in Chile and the Earth-Keck Observatory in Hawaii were used for the measurements.
The readings from these instruments have found evidence that fragments of rock are in orbit around the dead star.
Our Solar System could have a similar fate in about five billion years. After this period of time the sun will die. When the sun dies it will first expand into a red giant that will "swallow" some nearby planets. When this will happen the Sun could swallow our planet too. If, however, the Earth survives this cosmic catastrophe it could be broken into many pieces which will float around the white dwarf the Sun will eventually turn into. It's so good to know that this will not happen during our lifetime!#Science