TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – In what could be a preview of the Earth’s fate, astronomers are watching a star gobble up two of its orbiting planets, reports Space.com.
The star is Kepler-56, and it’s about 2,800 light years away from us, and it’s very similar to our sun.
Astronomers say it’s burning through it’s nuclear fuel, which causes it to swell before it collapses back into a red dwarf star.
But it is a slow motion process. Scientists estimate the closest planet, called Kepler-56b, will be swallowed up about 130 million years from now. It’s sister planet, Kepler-56c, will meet its doom 25 million years later.
“This is very exciting because this is the first time that we have observed an exoplanetary system with two of its planets sentenced to death,” said Gongjie Li, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Both planets are gas giants which complete their orbits within weeks, rather than years, and are closer to their star than Mercury is to the sun. A third planet orbits far enough away that it will survive Kepler-56’s death throes.
Astronomers predict the sun will grow into a red giant 5 billion years from now.
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