An asteroid (bottom left) breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, the oldest, coldest white dwarf known to be surrounded by a ring of dusty debris. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger
A volunteer working with the NASA-led Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project has found the oldest and coldest known white dwarf — an Earth-sized remnant of a Sun-like star that has died — ringed by dust and debris. Astronomers suspect this could be the first known white dwarf with multiple dust rings.
The star, LSPM J0207+3331 or J0207 for short, is forcing researchers to reconsider models of planetary systems and could help us learn about the distant future of our Solar System.
“This white dwarf is so old that whatever process is feeding material into its rings must operate on billion-year timescales,” says John Debes, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. “Most of the models scientists have created to explain rings around white dwarfs only work well up to around 100 million years, so this star is really challenging our assumptions of how planetary systems evolve.”
J0207 is located around 145 light years away in the constellation Capricornus. ...