The search was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society† If this discovery is confirmed, it will be the first time that a habitable planet has been found near a so-called “white dwarf,” a star at the end of its life cycle.
“Nothing has been found in the habitable zone of a white dwarf before,” said Professor Guy Farihe of University College London, who led the study. BBC† “This means that there may be a chance for life in another world.”
The potential planet, 117 light-years from Earth, would be 60 times closer to its star than Earth to the Sun.
The research team has no direct evidence of the planet’s existence, but the presence of 65 moon-sized objects indicates its existence. The distance of the objects from each other does not change, which gives the impression that they are under the influence of the gravitational pull of a nearby planet. “It was a shock to the team,” Farihi says. “The moves were so frighteningly precise that you can’t imagine this.”
Astronomers will now actively search for direct evidence of planets orbiting white dwarfs. “Because if we find one, it could mean it’s very common.”
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