Astronomers have discovered a planet the size of Jupiter closely orbiting the smouldering remains of a dead star, the first time that an intact exoplanet has been discovered travelling around a white dwarf, according to research published Wednesday.
NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a odd star system, where a giant gassy planet is tightly orbiting a tiny white dwarf. "The white dwarf creation process destroys nearby planets, and anything that later gets too close is usually torn apart by the star's huge gravity". Crossfield says that people are searching for the circling planets of White Dwarf Star where life is expected. But it's a big universe! Crosfield said, "This discovery suggests that even small white stars may have their own planets, about which we were not aware of until now".
"We've known for a long time that after white dwarfs are born, distant small objects such as asteroids and comets can scatter inward towards these stars", said co-author Dr. Siyi Xu, an assistant astronomer at the Gemini Observatory.
"When observing Earth-like planets orbiting white dwarfs, the James Webb Space Telescope can detect water and carbon dioxide within a matter of hours", said Ryan MacDonald, a research associate at the Carl Sagan institute.
"The white dwarf creation process destroys nearby planets, and anything that later gets too close is usually torn apart by the star's huge gravity", Vanderburg said.
"It seems like white dwarf systems may be a pretty good place to live, if your planet happens to be in the right part of the system", Mr Vanderburg said.
The researchers expect this system to persist for billions of years to come as the white dwarf continues to cool and "enjoy a long, peaceful retirement", Mr Vanderburg said.
Vanderburg also said that, like the recent discovery of phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus, the new discovery about this planet could suggest new types of planets to search for life. If the red giant devoured the closer planets in its path, this would destabilise the farther orbit of the Jupiter-size planet, sending it into an oval orbit that would bring it close to the white dwarf, but also send it far out.
The huge planet - much larger than the star that it orbits around - could offer a hint at what the future of Earth might look like, as well as prompting excitement about the possibility of life on other, similar planets elsewhere in the universe. It could be a dim star that passed by, rather than a planet.
A new planet dubbed WD 1856 b has been found intact even as it orbits a white dwarf, the corpse of a dead star. It would be a freaky sight, with the smaller but denser object seemingly in control of the visually mismatched celestial configuration. "We saw no extra infrared light, which helped confirm this new discovery as a real planet". If it's a star, stars are generally hotter than planets and it should be glowing in the infrared. But if it's just a planet, planets are generally colder than stars and so there should be a little or no infrared light.
"What our Spitzer data showed is there's basically no infrared light at all", Mr Crossfield said. And the depths of these transits are identical between the TESS data, and our Spitzer datasets. "That really put the final nail in the coffin that this thing is nearly certainly a planet, rather than a star".
The satellite spotted WD 1856 b about 80 light-years away in the northern constellation Draco. "Later, after the star became a white dwarf, the planet must have moved closer to the star".
This is a white dwarf, which is an extremely dense stellar ember that glows faintly with residual heat energy and slowly fades over billions of years.
"Can planets actually survive that - or is that impossible?"