Dying space body is first object ever seen transiting a white dwarf star

The real-deal Death Star has been discovered – a white dwarf star with evidence of solar-system-destroying features. This may not be the only such white dwarf in the universe – in fact, chances are it isn't alone. What's unique about this situation is that it's the first evidence of a theory that said white dwarf stars become "polluted" by elements from space bodies it pulls in with its massive gravity. Bodies found around this white dwarf are far closer to it than any planet is to our own Sun.

The biggest rock (or asteroid, if you prefer) found transiting this white dwarf is around the size of Texas. Scientists used NASA's Kepler space telescope to see the light coming from the star, seeing variations in light which indicate a passing space body and subsequent destruction.

As the planetary body circles the white dwarf, it continues to break apart. If the star is the Death Star, then this body is a very, very slowly disintegrating Alderaan.

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics graduate student and lead author of the new study Andrew Vanderburg suggested with Space.com that "what we're seeing are fragments of a disintegrating planet that is being vaporized by starlight and is losing mass."

"The vapor is getting lost into orbit, and that condenses into dust which then blocks the starlight."

ABOVE: Image Credit: © Mark A. Garlick /space-art.co.uk/University of Warwick modified by SlashGear (we added the TIE fighters).

For more information on this subject, see our initial report and the original paper "A disintegrating minor planet transiting a white dwarf".