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27 November 2013 12:59 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The new head of the National Center for Science Education promises to "fight the good fight" against attacks on...
Analyses of the H7N9 strains isolated from four new cases show that the virus is evolving rapidly, heightening anxiety...
In 2009, Jack Szostak shared a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the role of telomeres, the end bits of...
Science has exposed a thriving academic black market in China involving shady agencies, corrupt scientists, and...
Paper-selling agencies flourish in the aura of reputable businesses. For some scientists, it may be difficult to tell...
Featuring the first lunar rover in 40 years, Chang'e-3 is seen as an important milestone on China's quest to send a...
Data collected by satellites and floating probes have chronicled a 2-decade rise in the temperature and thickness of a...
Cholesterol, the artery-clogging molecule that contributes to cardiovascular disease, has another nasty trick up its...
- 27 November 2013 12:59 pm , Vol. 342 , #6162
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ScienceShot: Planet Swallowed Whole?
21 August 2012 2:13 pm
The notion of stars consuming their inner planets as they balloon during old age is firmly grounded in theory, but now scientists may have in hand the first evidence for such cannibalism. A star dubbed BD+48 740, an aging red giant in the constellation Perseus, is about 1.5 times the mass of our sun but has about 11 times the radius—a size that puts the star's surface only one-sixth of the distance to Mercury's orbit in our solar system but almost certainly bloated enough to have swallowed a close-orbiting "hot Jupiter" (early stages depicted in artist's representation above). Spectra show that BD+48 740 contains an abnormally high amount of lithium for a star its age, the researchers report online in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. That lithium, which is normally consumed in stars, was probably formed when the star heated up as it engulfed the doomed planet, the researchers say. Also, the team's analyses suggest that at least one other planet has thus far survived the lithium-rich star's growing pains—a massive orb about 1.6 times the mass of Jupiter, which circles the red dwarf in a highly-elongated orbit once every 771 days. The unusually large eccentricity of that orbit, one of the highest yet measured for an exoplanet, is yet another clue that BD+48 740's planetary system has suffered major disruptions, the researchers contend.
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*Correction 11:10 a.m., 24 August: BD+48 740 has one of the highest eccentric orbits yet measured for an exoplanet, not the highest, as our first report said.