Observations of Final Moments of Planetary System for First Time

Jay Kakade
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Planetary Remnants
Illustration of Planetary System Remnants. (Credit: University of Warwick/Mark Garlick)

At University of Warwick Using x-rays, astronomers observed some debris of destroyed planets and its impact on White Dwarf. The study has enabled researchers to measure growth (by accumulation) of rocky materials on a white dwarf.
This event observed by astronomers had occurred billions of years after the formation of planetary systems.

Stars become a white dwarfs after exhausting its fuel. Most of the White dwarfs are considered to grow debris from planets and other objects that orbit it.

Astronomers use spectroscopy at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths to measure out the abundance of minerals and metals on star or planet's surface. And further find out from where it came from.
Researchers have indirect evidences of growth of such material by accumulation. Observations by spectroscopy too shows the atmosphere of white dwarf to be polluted by Iron, Magnesium and calcium.

Astronomers have not actually seen the material as it was pulled by stars.

Dr. Tim Cunningham of University of Warwick says, "We have finally seen material entering the star’s atmosphere. It is the first time we’ve derived an accretion rate that doesn’t depend on detailed models of the white dwarf atmosphere. What’s quite remarkable is that it agrees extremely well with what’s been done before."

"Previously, measurements of accretion rates have used spectroscopy and have been dependent on white dwarf models. These are numerical models that calculate how quickly an element sinks out of the atmosphere into the star and tell you how much is falling into the atmosphere as an accretion rate. You can then work backward and work out how much of an element was in the parent body, whether a planet, moon, or asteroid.”

According to Tim Cunningham, Research team have observed debris using different instruments with different wavelengths and x-rays.
This detection has provided astronomers with the view that white dwarfs accrete the remnants of old planetary systems.

Chandra has helped astronomers to separate the target star from other x-ray sources. This was the first time when an isolated dwarf star observed by x-rays. This process occurred at high enough to observe and study atmosphere and surface of the star.
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