What scientists have appropriately named ‘Zombie’ Stars have been feeding on nearby planets and stars when they near death. And they seem to enjoy it. Scientists use these Zombie stars to complete an ‘autopsy’ of the star which apparently shows Scientists ‘what types of planets and stars existed when the planet was young and healthy’.
We know that when stars begin to ‘die’ a lot of changes happen which can affect the area around it, especially if the star is like our sun. The way that stars die can be very confusing, The New Scientist says ‘First they puff up into red giants and engulf anything too close. Powerful stellar winds cause the dying stars to slough off much of their mass, exposing dense stellar cores called white dwarfs.’.
Some of the White Dwarfs can contain heavy elements. And discs, like the ones that surround Saturn, can surround some of these White Dwarfs. These discs could actually be the left-overs from asteroids or even planets that came too close to it. These planets were probably ‘ripped apart by gravitational forces’. The ‘remnant stars’ feed on the dusty remains , and so their atmosphere becomes full of the heavier elements.
Scientists want to find out what extrasolar planets are made up of, and this process involving Zombie Stars could help them find out. Recently, there has been a worldwide ‘hunt’ for stars with other planets surrounding them, and thousands of possible stars have been found. This could be a huge advancement for the study of Extrasolar Stars and Planets, and could lead to an improved understanding of both our own planet, and others.