How a NASA Probe Discovered a Planet Being Literally Torn Apart

NASA's K2 mission finds evidence of dead star vaporizing a mini planet.

— -- A world in another solar system is literally being torn apart by a star in the throes of death, according to a new study.

Putting these observations together, Andrew Vanderburg, graduate student from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lead author of the paper, said he had his "eureka moment."

"The eureka moment of discovery came on the last night of observation with a sudden realization of what was going around the white dwarf. The shape and changing depth of the transit were undeniable signatures," he said in a statement. "We are for the first time witnessing a miniature 'planet' ripped apart by intense gravity, being vaporized by starlight and raining rocky material onto its star."

A million years from now, no one will be the wiser about the ferocity of the white dwarf. As the white dwarf continues to rip the planet into pieces with its scorching heat, scientists expect all that will remain is "a thin metal dusting on top of an innocent-looking white dwarf star."