University of Warwick
Skin Game

Astronomers Discover Hannibal Lecter Stars That Wear Planet Corpses

byTony Tran
Feb 13
University of Warwick

Scientists found something ghastly embedded in the edges of dying stars.

Hello, Clarice

Researchers have discovered chunks of planet corpses embedded in the atmosphere surrounding dead stars — the ghastly remnants of star systems that may have once looked somewhat like our own.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, a team of European scientists detail how they examined data from the Gaia space observatory to identify the elemental composition of the atmospheres surrounding four white dwarf stars, where they discovered “unambiguous” evidence of metals typically found in terrestrial planets. In other words, it appears that the stars in question are wearing the remains of their former planets, like a serial killer dressing themselves in a victim’s skin.

Continental Divide

Each of the white dwarves they studied was once at the center of its own solar system, like our very own Sun. But then they began to die, tearing apart their planets with an apocalyptic gravitational pull. When that happened, the researchers — building on previous Warwick research — surmise that the planets’ crust became absorbed into the atmosphere of the dying stars.

“Comparing all these elements together against different types of planetary material in the solar system, we found that the composition was distinctly different from all but one type of material: continental crust,” Mark Hollands, the lead author of the study and an astrophysicist at the University of Warwick, told Live Science

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Fashion Forward

So will the Earth’s Sun pull a Hannibal Lecter and wear the Earth one day? Not likely.

Hollands’ collaborator and fellow Warwick researcher Boris Gaensicke says that Earth will most likely get swallowed by the Sun when it becomes a red giant, leaving little trace behind.

“I wouldn’t bet on those alien astronomers detecting the lithium of all the defunct Teslas in the solar white dwarf,” Gaensicke told Live Science. “But, there is a good chance that they could see asteroids, comets, moons, or even Mars being gobbled up.”

READ MORE: White dwarfs wear the crushed corpses of planets in their atmospheres [Live Science]

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More on stars: Astronomers May Have Spotted a New Planet Around the Nearest Star


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