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News Release Archive:

News Release 636 of 964

August 12, 1999 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1999-24

Bloated Stars Swallow Giant Planets

August 12, 1999: The phrase "big fish eat little fish" may hold true when it comes to planets and stars. Perhaps as many as 100 million of the Sun-like stars in our galaxy harbor close-orbiting gas giant planets like Jupiter, or stillborn stars known as brown dwarfs, which are doomed to be gobbled up by their parent stars.

Astronomers did not directly observe the planets, because their parent stars had already swallowed them. But the researchers did find significant telltale evidence that some giant stars once possessed giant planets that were then swallowed up. The devouring stars release excessive amounts of infrared light, spin rapidly, and are polluted with the element lithium. The illustration depicts the cosmic cannibalism.

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Credit: NASA, STScI