Guenther said one potential simple explanation is that the star is eating a planet or mini-planets.
Very young stars, unlike our relatively mature sun, are still surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and clumps of material ranging in size from small dust grains to pebbles, and possibly fledgling planets. A team of researchers turned the Chandra X-ray Observatory toward the star over a five year period to get a better understanding of what exactly was happening.
Scientists believe episodes of shimmering light 450 light years away from Earth are actually a destructive star "devouring" parts of an alien planet.
Fluctuating light levels around a young star known as RW Aur A have puzzled astronomers for decades, with the celestial body appearing to dim before brightening again. A light-year is 5.9 million miles.
'Computer simulations have long predicted that planets can fall into a young star, but we have never before observed that, ' says Hans Moritz Guenther, a research scientist in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research who led the study.
The team speculates that this iron excess comes from a planet - or planetesimals - colliding with one another in the space surrounding RW Aur A. If one of the planets is rich in iron, the collision would cause that iron to be spewed into space, enriching the corona of the hungry young star and causing the abundance that they see.
Meanwhile, inherent motions within the collapsing cloud cause it to churn.
These "circumstellar" or "protoplanetary" disks, as astronomers call them, are the birthplaces of planets.
However, outside experts are wary.
'This could be an exciting discovery, but the evidence is circumstantial and not definitive, ' said Harvard's Avi Loeb.
Guenther's preferred explanation is speculative, said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Science, an expert on planets outside our solar system.