TECH

'Death Stars' Discovered Tearing Apart Young Planetary Systems In Distant Space

14/03/2014 11:36 GMT | Updated 14/03/2014 11:59 GMT

The picture below isn't quite 'real' - but it does really happen.

What you're looking at is an artist's conception of a literal 'Death' star, as it blasts material from a disk which would otherwise have gone on to form planets.

Known as young "O-Type" stars, these strange objects have been caught in the act of destruction for the first time .

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These stars, discovered in the Orion Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope, are massive enough, and pump out enough ultraviolet radiation, to tear gas and dust away from a disk surrounding a new star (a "proplyd"), and disrupt the formation process.

Such "monster" stars "emit tremendous amounts of ultraviolet radiation and this can play havoc during the development of young planetary systems,” said astronomer Rita Mann from the National Research Council of Canada in a press release.

The study shows that any protostar within 0.1 light years (or 600 billion miles) of an O-type star will be doomed to destruction, blasted to pieces by these giant balls of radiation.

"Massive stars are hot and hundreds of times more luminous than our Sun," said James Di Francesco, also with the National Research Council of Canada.

"Their energetic photons can quickly deplete a nearby protoplanetary disk by heating up its gas, breaking it up, and sweeping it away."