When our sun enters its death throes in about five billion years, it will crush our planet and then die dramatically to become a dead anthrax: a white dwarf. But the fate of distant planets such as Jupiter or Saturn is less clear. Astronomers have now found a planet that escaped the death of its star. It’s the size of Jupiter and orbits a white dwarf 6,500 light-years away from here.
Why is this important?The Jupiter-sized planet orbits a type of star called a white dwarf and gives an idea of what our solar system might look like if the sun were to burn out. Or: If humanity is still around in five billion years, we’d probably have a better chance of surviving the red giant phase of the Sun on Jupiter’s moon than Earth.
MOA-2010-BLG-477Lb اكتشاف Discovery Not only does it offer a glimpse into our cosmic future, it also raises the possibility that any life on “surviving worlds” could withstand the death of its stars. It is likely that the fate of our solar system will be similar to MOA-2010-BLG-477Lb. The sun will become a white dwarf, the inner planets will engulf and the planets with larger orbits such as Jupiter and Saturn will survive.
The planet was first seen due to the light-distorting effects of a gravitational field, a phenomenon known as microlensing. After years of searching for its host star with the Keck II telescope in Hawaii, it was determined that it orbits a white dwarf too faint to be directly observed.
Astronomers who used a different method last year reported seeing another intact Jupiter-like planet, known as WD 1856 b, also orbiting a white dwarf. But MOA-2010-BLG-477Lb orbits its white dwarf about three times the distance between Earth and the Sun, making it the first known planet to orbit a Jupiter-like white dwarf. On the other hand, WD 1856 b orbits its white dwarf every 1.4 days, indicating that it migrated to its current position after its star’s death, although the exact mechanisms of that flight are still being investigated.
Can life also be lived?
The new discovery could provide insight into the search for extraterrestrial life and the potential for habitation of white dwarf systems. Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute, has suggested that some life-bearing galaxies may undergo a “second formation,” in which new objects appear in the remnants of the reconstituted white dwarf system.
Or: If planets could survive the death of their stars, could life on those planets, too? Dying stars emit harmful radiation as they grow into so-called red giants, creating a disturbance in their systems that can destroy life. But there are some speculative scenarios where the habitability of planets could be preserved in white dwarf systems.
There are a lot of things that should go well. It could be with a planet far from a red giant star that then moves inward after the star becomes a white dwarf and holds enough water to be a habitable place when the star turns into a white dwarf.
In five billion years we will be better in Europe
Because white dwarfs are small and faint, such a planet would have to be in a very close, very short orbit for liquid water to exist. However, if life appeared in a world like Jupiter’s moon Europa, which could have a subsurface ocean heated by Jupiter’s tidal forces, it would also likely live at a greater distance than the white dwarf.
Or: If humanity is still around in five billion years, we’ll probably have a better chance of surviving the red giant phase of the Sun on Jupiter’s moon than on Earth.
While the existence of life around white dwarfs is still a matter of speculation, the next generation observatories, Like the James Webb Space Telescope, can help provide specific answers to this question. As more healthy planets orbit white dwarfs are observed, scientists will have a clearer picture of the life and afterlife of these mysterious systems of extinct stars. This was the first discovery of a planet orbiting a white dwarf, but it certainly isn’t the last.
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