Uk Hidden giant planet discovered orbiting tiny white dwarf star

05 Décembre, 2019, 20:40 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • University of Warwick  Mark Garlick

In what researchers known as "a kind of likelihood discoveries", they discovered an ice large exoplanet - a planet outdoors of our solar system - orbiting an Earth-sized white dwarf.

An global team used observational data from multiple telescopes and theoretical models to conclude that while the white dwarf star is ancient, it's five times hotter than our sun.

It's also interesting to wonder how much our own solar system will resemble this system in seven or so billion years. But the discovery of the planet orbiting the star happened, partially, by chance, according to Boris Gaensicke, lead author of the study from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. This pair was first found in a sample of 7,000 white dwarfs taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. After a closer examination, the astronomers saw that the weird elements they thought were emitted by the white dwarf were, in fact, coming from a disk of gas swirling around the lifeless star.

"Over the past two decades we had growing evidence that planetary systems survive into the white dwarf stage".

Tiny spikes of hydrogen have been unexpectedly detected round this explicit white dwarf. Using the X-shooter instrument on the ESO VLT, the team make follow-up observations that confirmed the presence of hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur in a disc of gas swirling into the white dwarf, rather than coming from the star.

The detected amounts of hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur are similar to those found in the deep atmospheric layers of icy, giant planets like Neptune and Uranus.

A planet around four times the size of the Earth has been discovered orbiting around a dead white dwarf star. This is what scientists think they are seeing around WDJ0914+1914: the first evaporating planet orbiting a white dwarf. "Such a system has never been seen before, and it was immediately clear to me that this was a unique star", Gaensicke said in a statement.

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Dr Matthias Schreiber from the University of Valparaiso calculated that the 28,000 °C hot white dwarf is slowly evaporating the hidden icy giant by bombarding it with high energy photons. It will be reduced to a handful of large planets orbiting a small, very dense star that once used to a glowing ball of burning hydrogen and helium. Since it orbits the hot white dwarf at close range, making its way around it in just 10 days, the high-energy photons from the star are gradually blowing away the planet's atmosphere.

The revelation was made possible by astronomers, who found evidence of a disc of gas created from the distant planet's evaporating atmosphere.

Scientists have discovered evidence of a star system that might foreshadow the fate of our own.

The sun will evolve into a white dwarf in about 6 billion years from now. Once they run out of this fuel, they puff up into red giants, becoming hundreds of times larger and engulfing nearby planets. After that, it'll swell into a red giant, and swallow Mercury, Venus, and probably Earth too. Such stellar remnants can still host planets, and many of these star systems are thought to exist in our Milky Way Galaxy.

He added that having evidence for an actual planet was an "important step".

The calculations done by the researchers indicate that the white dwarf is drawing in approximately three million kilograms of material a second and forming a disk that extends out to about 10 times the radius of our Sun. Sometimes stars like this had planetary systems before they died, and sometimes asteroids or even rocky planets can be disrupted by the dead star's fierce gravity. But Mars, the asteroid belt, Jupiter and the rest of the planets in the Solar System will expand out on their orbits, as the Sun loses mass because it will have less of a gravitational pull on those planets.

The discovery by astronomers from the University of Warwick's Department of Physics and the Millennium Nucleus for Planet Formation (NPF) at the University of Valparaiso is published in the journal Nature. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky".


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