science

First, astronomers have discovered a giant planet orbiting a dead star

A small white dwarf, WD 1856, orbited closely by a large planet.

NASA Goddard

About 80 light-years from Earth the white dwarf WD 1856, a dead star entered its final stages of life 6 billion years ago. This slow death is usually very lonely. In the process of dying, some of the stars expand drastically and become a large “red giant” Like Betelgeuse, And orbit any nearby planet. Eventually, they used up their fuel and collapsed back into white dwarves, destroying everything.

Not so for WD 1856. For the first time, astronomers are orbiting a large planet, about the size of Jupiter, a dead star. They named it WD 1856 b, a surprising discovery – it avoided destruction and proved that dead stars could still hold planets under perfect conditions.

Study, Published Wednesday in Nature magazine, Can use data from NASA’s TESS satellites and ground – based telescopes. Tess, who explores the stars for small tips on the brightness of potential planets, first saw the star throughout July and August 2019. When looking at the WD 1856 there was a great reduction in brightness.

Astronomers have recently begun to understand the idea that these dead stars could hold many more planets. In December, researchers made the discovery A planet slowly swallowed by a white dwarf About 1,500 light years away. However, the discovery is based on the emission of light by debris and gas around the star, which the researchers suggest must have been removed from a planet like Neptune.

The discovery published in Nature today is different because it records the direct detection of a planet orbiting in front of its host star, which was previously unattainable for a white dwarf.

Every time Jupiter-sized planet WD preceded WD 1856, when viewed from Earth, the light from the star was reduced by almost half. However, this process is incredibly brief because the planet completes a full orbit every 1.4 days. The white dwarf is 40% larger than Earth. As a result, the brightness lasts at least eight minutes and the planet is 20 times closer to our Sun than Mercury.

Simon Campbell, an astronomer at Monash University in Australia, said: “This method is very different. In this case, the planet is 7 times bigger than its host star!”

Using data collected by ground-based telescopes, the team was able to estimate how large the planet was. Infrared data Lovingly departed Spitzer Space Telescope It says it is 14 times higher than Jupiter.

But if it was so close to its star, how did WD 1856 b escape the expansion phase? The team offered two possible explanations.

When its host star turns into a red giant, it may have disturbed the planets in its system, leaving their orbits unheard of. Irregular cosmic dance may have helped a planetary body like WD 1856 b fly towards the star, which has been orbiting ever since. Since it is an old white dwarf, it gives a lot of time to approach the planets. Possible, there are other planets orbiting the white dwarf.

“Although impossible, I don’t think we know how much of this is possible because things get messy when you disturb the orbit,” Campbell said. “Such an observation is important.”

According to researchers, the star was able to survive the expansion phase by removing some outer layers. However, they put an end to our current theories about this process, which were not developed in this way.

See also: These telescopes show you being in the sky with your phone

Future observations could confirm that WD 1856 b is indeed a planet or that it is a failed star known as the “brown dwarf”. They point out Upcoming, but long overdue, James Webb telescope And the Gemini Laboratory as keys to a better understanding of WD 1856 b. And, of course, if there were planets, they could hold life.

“There are now people who can orbit planets around white dwarfs, and they can survive,” Ian Crossfield said in a statement. “It’s going to be a very different system, and you have to think about how the planets escaped at that time.”

Of course, if we can wait a few billion years, the fate of our own solar system will give us front-row seats in the back row behind the white dwarf. When our sun begins to set, it swells to the point where it expands beyond the orbit of Mars. It will be Really Massive. Like WD 1856, the four inner planets of the solar system will burn up in expansion until it runs out of fuel and collapses into a cold, white dwarf. Will extraterrestrial planets like Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune fly close to the massacre? I hope we will not be around to find out.

Phil Schwartz

"Food expert. Unapologetic bacon maven. Beer enthusiast. Pop cultureaholic. General travel scholar. Total internet buff."

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