A potential planet… where no planet should be.
An international team of astronomers utilizing NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and data obtained from the now-retired Spitzer space telescope have reported an astounding potential discovery of a surviving planet closely orbiting a white dwarf.
So what’s the big deal? Scientists have found many exoplanets in close orbits of their parent stars.
Here’s the confusing part: The way a white dwarf is created destroys nearby objects either by incineration or gravitational destruction.
White dwarfs form when stars like the Sun near the end of their life cycles. They swell up, expand to hundreds and even thousands of times their regular size, forming a red giant.
Eventually, that outer, expanded layer is ejected from the star and only a hot, dense white dwarf core remains.
So how did a planet, known as WD 1856 b, that is Jupiter-like get into such a close proximity that it completes an orbit of the white dwarf (that is only 18,000 km / 11,000 miles across) every 34 hours?
“WD 1856 b somehow got very close to its white dwarf and managed to stay in one piece,” said Andrew Vanderburg, an assistant professor of astronomy at ...