This Is What Happens When A ‘Zombie’ Star Eats A Space Rock

Some 450 light-years away from Earth, a zombie-like white dwarf star is being eerily encircled by the crumbs of an asteroid that it devoured.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Warwick in England has modeled an image of the zombie star — called SDSS J1228+1040 — that broke up the asteroid after the space rock was dragged into its gravitational pull, creating a Saturn-like ring of dust and gas around the star.

The researchers hope that better understanding exactly how the white dwarf formed its ring could help scientists model the future of our solar system. After all, J1228+1040 is called a zombie because white dwarf stars are actually the dead remnants of larger stars. When our sun eventually dies, it could end up just like J1228+1040.

“When the Sun eventually runs out of fuel, it will also become a white dwarf,” Christopher Manser, an astrophysics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Warwick and lead author of the study, told The Huffington Post in an email. “It is currently thought that most of the outer planets, and possibly Mars (and Earth if we are lucky!) will survive this event. By observing systems like SDSSJ1228+1040, we get an idea of what our own solar system will look like billions of years from now.”

For the study, the researchers observed the white dwarf star and the asteroid remains with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile over a 12-year period from 2003 to 2015. These observations allowed the scientists to view the star from various angles and to record details of the light coming from the white dwarf and its surrounding ring.

The researchers then used a method called Doppler tomography that allowed them to build an image of the zombie —> Read More