Planet discovered orbiting dead star could be a glimpse into the future of the solar system

Scientists have discovered a Jupiter-like planet, which has a gas giant-like orbit, revolving around a dead star – or white dwarf – near the center of the Milky Way, according to a press release. The team also found that the planet is 40 times more massive than Jupiter, and that the white dwarf makes up about 60% of the Sun’s mass.

Researchers discovered the system using the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii and described their findings in a new study published in the journal Nature this week.

There is reason to be optimistic about the fate of some planets in our solar system despite the sun’s clock, said Joshua Blackman, a researcher at the University of Tasmania in Australia and lead author of the study.

“This evidence confirms that planets orbiting a sufficiently large distance can continue to exist after their star dies,” Blackman said. “Since this system is an analogue of our own solar system, this suggests that Jupiter and Saturn could survive the red giant phase of the Sun, when it runs out of nuclear fuel and self-destructs.”

The future of Earth, however, “may not be so rosy” because of its proximity to the Sun, said co-author David Bennett, senior researcher at the University of Maryland and Goddard Space. NASA Flight Center.

“If humanity wanted to move to a moon of Jupiter or Saturn before the Sun sintered the Earth during its red supergiant phase, we would still orbit the Sun, although we could not rely on heat. of the Sun like a white dwarf for a very long time, ”he said.

Looking at the planet’s host star, Jean-Philippe Beaulieu, another co-author of the study, said they had ruled out a neuron star and a black hole host, and instead concluded that the planet was in orbit around a dead star. The team discovered that its starlight was not bright enough to be an ordinary star.

“This gives a glimpse of what our solar system will look like after the Earth disappears, caused by the cataclysmic disappearance of our Sun,” said Beaulieu, who holds a chair in astrophysics at the University of Tasmania. and director of the Institute. of Astrophysics of Paris.

The research team will include their findings in a statistical study to determine how many other white dwarfs have planetary survivors. NASA’s next mission, the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope, which allows giant planets to be imaged directly, will facilitate their investigation.

Arline J. Mercier