May 02, 2017 09:51 AM EDT
Cannibalism does not only occur among the inhabitants of Earth but in the whole universe. In fact, the strange and sudden drop in brightness among stars is an evidence of these heavenly bodies gobbling up a planet as big as Jupiter.
Scientists found evidence of this phenomenon in 2015 after the Kepler mission noticed that the KIC 8462852 star, nicknamed Tabby's Star, suddenly had a drop in its brightness.
There was a series of studies conducted by different researchers to explain this strange activity. There were many explanations but the latest and greatest explanation came from a team of astrophysicists from the University of California-Berkeley and Columbia University which says that the flickering was the result of a planet it has consumed at an indefinite point in time in the past. Now, the remains of the planet it consumed is transiting causing drops in its brightness.
Their study was based on previous researches that observed the long-term behavior of Tabby's Star. The first study showed that there was a 14 percent drop to the star's brightness between 1890 and 1989. The second study revealed that its brightness decreased by another 3 percent during the course of four years the Kepler mission has been observing it.
Then, they used the Kozai Method, a method used by scientists to calculate the orbits of the planets based on their inclination and eccentricity, to explain how Tabby's Star behaves. Using this method, they determined that the star could have consumed several small planets around 1 kilometer in size or a planet as big as Jupiter.
Brian Metzger, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory, said that using Tabby's Star as a representation, one star could gobble up 10 or more Jupiter-sized planets in its lifetime.
The study is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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