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Snacking in space: Star dines on planet

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10:31am, May 16, 2001

Burp!

A star has been caught red-handed with the digested remains of one or more of its own planets.

Studying the light from the star HD 82943, known to have two planets, astronomers have found that its atmosphere contains a fragile lithium isotope. Thats surprising because stars make very little of the isotope, lithium-6, and any in HD 82943 at the stars birth would have burned up within 30 million years, when it was still young and extremely hot.

Somehow, the star acquired the lithium-6 well after its birth. The most likely explanation is that HD 82943 engulfed one or more planets, assert Garik Israelian of the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands in Tenerife, Spain, and his colleagues in the May 10 Nature.

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