Planet Buster Dead Star Vaporizes Mini-Planet

Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope (the K2 mission) have uncovered strong evidence of an object being torn apart as it spirals around a white dwarf star.


( object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star )

The devastated planetesimal, or cosmic object formed from dust, rock, and other materials, is estimated to be the size of a large asteroid, and is the first planetary object to be confirmed transiting a white dwarf. It orbits its white dwarf, WD 1145+017, once every 4.5 hours. This orbital period places it extremely close to the white dwarf and its searing heat and shearing gravitational force.

"For the last decade we’ve suspected that white dwarf stars were feeding on the remains of rocky objects, and this result may be the smoking gun we’re looking for,” said Fergal Mullally, staff scientist of K2 at SETI and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

One of my favorite science fiction expressions is "planet buster" - a weapon so powerful it can destroy a planet. I first read it in Frank Herbert's quirky but excellent 1972 novel The Godmakers:

We'll take up a tight orbit. Out beyond us will be five transports full of I-A marines plus a Class IX Monitor with one planet-buster...

However, as far as I know, the first reference to the term is from a great story, Assignment to Aldebaran (1953) by Kendall Foster Crossen.

"One of our largest space bombers was over the planet. The commander warned the Aldebarans that unless they agreed to surrender the diamonds at once, he would drop a planet buster - that’s a Class-A oxygen bomb. The Aldebaran’s return message, expressed in the crudest possible language, told the commander what he could do with the bomb.”
(Read more about the planet buster)

Via NASA. Thanks to @nyrath of Project Rho for tweeting about this story.

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