Tech UPTechnologyThey find the first giant planet around a white...

They find the first giant planet around a white dwarf

For the first time in history, a team of astronomers has discovered, thanks to ESO’s Very Large Telescope, a Neptune-like planet orbiting the remnant of a star very similar to the Sun.

The planet, which is much larger than the dead star it orbits, about four times larger than the white dwarf, was discovered through the disk of gas created by its evaporating atmosphere. The white dwarf is about the same size as Earth. The planet orbits the star once every 10 days; d ue to the short distance, is leaving a trail of gas composed of hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur in its path, forming a disc of gas around the star. It’s funny because, until now, there has been no evidence of a planet that has survived the transition from a star to a white dwarf, the researchers say.

This unique system gives us clues as to what our own solar system might look like in the distant future.

The data


Analysis of the spectral fingerprints of the white dwarf WD J0914 + 1914 revealed strange traces of a chemistry belonging to a gas giant, revealing a star system very different from anything we have seen to date.

Using data collected as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the international team of astronomers discovered the signs of a Uranus-like planet orbiting so close to the distant white dwarf that the planet is slowly being dematerialized.

White dwarfs represent the end of a star’s life, because once its fuel supply is exhausted, these cosmic objects collapse under their own gravity, squeezing out all that mass, becoming hundreds of times larger, and engulfing the planets. close.


In the case of our solar system, this future event will include Mercury, Venus, and even Earth, which will be consumed by the Sun in about 5 billion years. Eventually, Sun-like stars lose their outer layers, leaving only a burned-out core, a white dwarf. Such stellar debris may still host planets, and many of these star systems are believed to exist in our galaxy. However, until now, scientists had never found evidence of a surviving giant planet around a white dwarf.


The detection of an exoplanet orbiting WDJ0914 + 1914, located about 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Cancer, may be the first of many orbiting stars.

“It was one of those fortuitous discoveries
,” says researcher Boris Gänsicke, from the University of Warwick (UK), who led the study reported in the journal Nature .


Researchers had already studied around 7,000 white dwarfs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and discovered something surprising: one era was different from the others. By analyzing the subtle variations in the star’s light, they found traces of chemical elements in quantities that scientists had never before observed in a white dwarf. “We knew there had to be something exceptional about this system, and we speculated that it might be related to some kind of planetary remnant.”


By running the spectral data through a simulation program, the team was able to model the conditions that we might expect in the closest environment of WD J0914 + 1914. The mixture of water and hydrogen sulfide suggested that a gaseous planet with a similar composition that of our giants, like Neptune and Uranus, was losing its atmosphere.

For the giant to vaporize in this way, it would need to be close to the white dwarf. The researchers estimate that it would be around 10 million kilometers.

“The discovery also opens a new window to the ultimate fate of planetary systems,” said lead researcher Boris Gänsicke, from the University of Warwick in the UK and leader of the study.

Even with this evidence of a gas giant orbiting a white dwarf, it is unclear if this is an anomaly or if we just hadn’t looked hard enough to find other examples.

Considering that our own Sun is destined to become a white dwarf, it would be interesting to find more examples that could give us an idea of the far future of our own solar system.


“Until recently, very few astronomers thought about the fate of planets orbiting dying stars. This discovery of a planet orbiting close to a finished stellar core firmly demonstrates that the Universe is repeatedly challenging our minds. , prompting us to go beyond our established ideas, “concludes Gänsicke.




Referencia: Accretion of a giant planet onto a white dwarf star, Nature (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1789-8 ,


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