You ready to see what’s going to happen to the Earth one day?
After a star’s fuel is all spent up, it begins to collapse on itself. The denser it gets, the greater its gravitational pull becomes, and it begins to draw planets toward it.
That process is mostly hypothetical though, because never before has anyone seen a planet getting torn apart by the tug of a white dwarf.
Until now. From Smithsonian Magazine:
Scientists have speculated that this altered gravitational pull would set the orbits of any remaining planets awry. Collisions would smash up the rocky orbs and catapult their pieces into the white dwarf. And any planets that simply wandered too close to the dead star would get drawn in and shredded apart.
When Andrew Vanderburg observed a telltale dip around the orbit of a white dwarf star, dubbed WD 1145+017, he was ecstatic. No one had yet found a planet zipping around one of these stellar remnants.
But unlike the expected regularity of an orbiting planet, the star had an asymmetric flicker, with its light first sharply decreasing and then slowly fading away, says Vanderburg. The scientists soon realized they were observing the long dusty streaks trailing behind a disintegrating rocky body—a planet in the process of being consumed.
NASA created a video illustration of the process, which is basically exactly what will happen to Earth in a few billion years.
Cool as it looks, we’ll unfortunately already be dead.