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Giant Planets in a Post-Apocalyptic Solar System

22 Jan 2020, 17:00 UTC
Giant Planets in a Post-Apocalyptic Solar System
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It’s nearly eight billion years in the future.
The Sun, having exhausted its source of fuel, has dramatically expanded into a red giant and then puffed off its outer layers, leaving its dense, scalding hot core exposed. This core — a white dwarf — initially clocks in at nearly 100,000 K (180,000 °F), bathing its surroundings in harsh extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) radiation at levels that are up to a million times brighter than the present-day Sun.
Earth and the other inner, rocky planets were swallowed up by the ballooning Sun long ago. But how have the giant planets of our solar system — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — fared since this unavoidable apocalypse?
A Hostile Environment
Artist’s impression of a close-in hot Jupiter being evaporated by its nearby host. Giant planets on much longer orbits can be evaporated at similar rates by the extreme ultraviolet radiation of a white dwarf. [NASA’s Goddard SFC]According to Matthias Schreiber (University of Valparaíso, Chile) and collaborators, if our giant planets survive the Sun’s evolution into a white dwarf, they still have another challenge ahead: their atmospheres will be dramatically eroded by the bright EUV radiation emitted by the new white dwarf.
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