In research published on September 16, astronomers discovered a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting the smoldering remains of a deactivated star.
Scientists named this newly discovered planet WD 1586B. Studying the newly discovered planet should provide more data on the prospect that our Sun will “age” and die as a white dwarf star in about 5 billion years.
When a star like the Sun burns its reserves of hydrogen, it begins to swell into a giant mass of heat and burn neighboring planets.
After a star disappears, the only part that remains of a star is its burnt core, also known as a white dwarf. This residual core is very dense, glows weakly with the remaining heat and disappears in a few billion years.
Previous research has shown that some white dwarfs can remain in ruins in their planetary systems for long periods of time.
However, to date, no intact planet has been discovered around the orbit of a dead star.
Professor Andrew Vanderburg of the University of Winsconsin-Madison, who is in charge of research published in the journal Nature, commented: “This is a very surprising finding.”
Because no obvious debris was found on the planet orbiting the dead star, scientists concluded that WD 1586B is an intact planet, assistant astronomer Siyi Xu told Gemini Observatory.
This discovery proves that many planets can operate in the affected regions of stars even after they have faded into white dwarfs.
However, why WD 1586B appears near a dead star remains a mystery to scientists.
After examining the various theories, the team argued that WD 1586B was caught in the orbit of the white dwarf due to the interactive forces generated by neighboring planets.
In a commentary on the new discovery, Steven Parsons of the University of Sheffield predicts that the discovery of WD 1586B “offers the prospect of discovering more similar planets in the future.”
The WD 1856 + 534 white dwarf is only 82 light years from Earth, so Parsons believes the gravitational effects of other planets on the white dwarf will be detected by astronomers observing from Earth.