Planet-eating stars can be identified by their telltale chemistry

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An Exoplanet In Orbit Around A Binary Star System

Artist’s impression of an exoplanet in orbit around a binary star

MasPix/Alamy

Astronomers could boost the efficiency of the search for alien worlds that might harbour life by using a technique that can help determine whether a star has already eaten its planets.

Lorenzo Spina at the Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy, and his colleagues analysed a series of binary stars – pairs of stars that orbit one another. Because both stars in a binary pair typically formed from a single giant molecular cloud, they should be chemically identical.

“However, we’ve known for …

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