This small star may be dimming because it ate a Jupiter-sized planetThere’s so…

This small star may be dimming because it ate a Jupiter-sized planet

There’s something weird going on at RZ Pisces. Nobody can seem to tell how old it is — or why a star of its age is still abundant in the gas and dimming and debris associated with much younger systems.

If it’s old, there should be low X-ray activity and no flares. But while there’s no flaring events, there’s plenty of X-ray activity. Young stars exhaust their protoplanetary disks at 10 million years, so an old star shouldn’t have one. Yet RZ Pisces has an abundant protoplanetary disk that has caused periodic dimming over the course of 40 years.

So is it old or young? That’s what Kristina Punzi, a PhD candidate in astrophysics at the Rochester Institute of Technology, wants to find out. And one of the causes may be the destruction of a planet.

RZ Pisces is a small M-dwarf in the constellation Pisces / Piscium. Because it seems to be separate from any “stellar nursery” or stellar association, it is likely main sequence. Indeed, some X-ray activity points towards a post-main sequence star, when a star has finished accreting matter and has cleared its debris field into asteroids, planets, and comets.

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