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Artist's concept showing planet KELT-9b orbiting its host star, KELT-9.

The exoplanet KELT-9b is a ‘hot Jupiter’ at risk of destruction by its star (artist’s impression). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Planetary science

The stars that team up to push planets to their death

One member of a stellar pair nudges planets towards its partner, which rips apart or swallows its victims.

Stars of a certain kind destroy most of their Jupiter-sized planets, simulations suggest.

Stars classified as A-type stars are roughly 1.6–2.4 times the mass of the Sun and are often gravitationally bound to a second star, known as a stellar ‘companion’. Towards the end of their lives, A-type stars swell to form enormous bodies called red giants.

Alexander Stephan at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues carried out several thousand simulations of systems that included an A-type star, a stellar companion and an orbiting Jupiter-sized planet. In 61% of cases, the companion star’s presence influenced the orbit of Jupiter-sized planets, which moved close enough to the A-type stars to eventually be destroyed — either ripped apart by the star’s gravity, or swallowed up by the star in its bloated later years.

Across the Milky Way, tens of thousands of red giants are probably feasting on such planets at any given time, the authors write.

More Research Highlights...

Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica

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Conservation biology

Forests that float in the clouds are drifting away

Tropical cloud forests are safe havens for a vast range of creatures and plants, but they are under siege around the globe.
Illustration of a brown dwarf

A rapidly spinning brown dwarf (pictured, artist’s impression) tends to have narrow atmospheric bands; the faster the spin, the thinner the bands. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomy and astrophysics

Dim stars that have failed at fusion are masters of spin

Three brown dwarfs whirl on their axes at a dizzying rate that might be close to the celestial speed limit for these bodies.
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Large-scale facilities such as this feedlot in Floresville, Texas, help to meet the global appetite for beef and other red meat, which remains strong despite the growing consumption of chicken and fish. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

Agriculture

Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

People are eating more poultry and fish — but they’re not giving up their hamburgers.
Midshipmen at dining table eat in formation, CIRCA 1900

Midshipmen in the United States in around 1900. A study found that body-mass index, a gauge of obesity, has increased with the generations during the twentieth century. Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty

Metabolism

A century of US data documents obesity’s racially skewed rise

An analysis also finds that obesity is common at a much younger age among people born in the early 1980s than those born in the late 1950s.
Auroras on Jupiter

Jupiter’s aurora glows blue in this composite image. A newly detected radio signal might be the signature of a similar aurora on a planet in another solar system. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols, Univ. Leicester

Astronomy and astrophysics

Wiggly signal hints of an aurora on a planet far from the Solar System

A vast radio observatory on Earth detects signals similar to those generated by the aurora on Jupiter.
Members of the "Ice Memory project" extract an ice core piece out of a drill machine

Scientists extract an ice core from the Col du Dome glacier near the top of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. A similar core documents changes in emissions of an ozone-depleting gas. Credit: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty

Atmospheric science

Ice on the Alps’s highest peak details a pollutant’s rise

A glacier on Mont Blanc provides a decades-long record of the use of bromine, which corrodes the ozone layer.
Jumping ant guarding pupae and larvae at the nest

The brain of an Indian jumping worker ant (above, guarding pupae and larvae) becomes smaller if she starts to lay eggs but can regrow to its old size if she stops reproducing. Credit: Martin Dohrn/Nature Picture Library

Neuroscience

Ants shrink their brains for motherhood — but can enlarge them when egg-laying ends

Brain volume plummets in ‘gamergate’ ants that gain the ability to reproduce, but rises again with a fall in fertility.
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