Herschel Space Observatory discovers a star offering a glimpse at our sun’s future

Apr 10, 2013
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Herschel Space Observatory discovers a star offering a glimpse at our sun’s future

The Herschel space telescope operated by the European Space Agency has captured an image of a dying star. The interesting part about the image is that the astronomers believe it offers a glimpse at what our sun will look like billions of years from now when it dies. The star is called Kappa Coronae Borealis.

The star is larger than our sun at about 1.5 solar masses. Scientists say that the star recently entered its subgiant phase. The subgiant phase is the point when a star begins to grow in size and eventually engulfs nearby planets and asteroids. Astronomers say being able to get a photograph of a dying star complete with a debris disk and one or more planets is very rare.

Astronomers also note that stars similar in size to our sun typically end their life as a red giant before either exploding into a supernova or cooling to become a white or brown dwarf star. Kappa Coronae Borealis will continue to burn for hundreds of thousands of years to come according to the astronomers. The star system is surrounded by a dusty debris field, which makes observing the star directly virtually impossible.

The astronomers were able to peer through the dense debris filled and measured the stars far-infrared wavelengths. The study allowed the astronomers to catalog the debris field and identify properties of the star. The star itself is interesting enough, but scientists say that they are also extremely interested in identifying a mysterious third body in the star system. The scientists believe that that third body could be a brown dwarf star or a gas giant exoplanet.

[via Science Recorder]


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