The Kepler Spacecraft has found an authentic ‘Death Star’, and it isn’t the one that Darth Vader built, although it is as destructive. This ‘Death Star’ is a dying star that is literally disintegrating nearby planets and any object that gets in its path. One of the most interesting aspects of this find is that observing its behavior can help us understand how dead stars obliterate their planetary systems and gives us an idea of what may happen to Earth in a few billion years when our own sun begins to die.
This ‘Death Star’, aka WD1145+017, was spotted previously by astronomers tearing apart a little planetary body they speculated might be a moon or dwarf planet. WD1145+017 is a white dwarf that lies about 570 light-years from Earth. White dwarfs are very dense, and its important to note that most stars will eventually transform into a white dwarf at some point in their life.
Boris Gansicke, an astronomer at the University of Warwick England who also authored the study, said, “Our sun will one day balloon out to become a red giant star, wiping out Mercury and Venus and maybe Earth, before it becomes a white dwarf. By looking at this white dwarf, we get a look at what the future of the solar system might be like. It’s exciting and unexpected that we can see this kind of dramatic change on human timescales. We can see how things evolve over time. How does the integration of a planetisimal work? How long does the whole thing last? Will we be able to see everything disappear in a year or two? How does the disk of dust around the star evolve? How will the metal content of the white dwarf change?” So many unanswered questions, but with any luck, Boris may soon have some answers to share with us all.