The first evidence of a planet's destruction by its aging star has been discovered with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope by an international team of astronomers. A similar fate may await the inner planets in our solar system, when the sun becomes a red giant and expands all the way out to Earth's orbit some five-billion years from now.
"Our detailed spectroscopic analysis reveals that this red-giant star, BD+48 740, contains an abnormally high amount of lithium, a rare element created primarily during the Big Bang 14 billion years ago," Adamow said. Lithium is easily destroyed in stars, which is why its abnormally high abundance in this older star is so unusual. "Theorists have identified only a few, very specific circumstances, other than the Big Bang, under which lithium can be created in stars," Wolszczan added. "In the case of BD+48 740, it is probable that the lithium production was triggered by a mass the size of a planet that spiraled into the star and heated it up while the star was digesting it."
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