The first planetary body observed in the habitable zone of a dead star

Impressions of the artist of the white dwarf WD1054–226 orbiting by the clouds of planetary debris and the major planets in the habitable zone. Credits: Mark A. Garlick /

A new study led by UCL researchers observes a ring of planetary debris studded with moon-sized structures orbiting near the white dwarf, and water and life may be present. It implies a planet near the “habitable zone”.

White dwarf Performer They burned all the hydrogen fuel.Almost every star, including the Sun, will eventually White dwarfBut little is known about them Planetary system..

in the investigation, Monthly Notification of the Royal Astronomical SocietyUsing data from ground and space-based telescopes, an international team of researchers measured light from the Milky Way white dwarf, known as WD1054–226.

Surprisingly, they found a marked dip of light corresponding to a cloud of 65 evenly spaced planetary debris orbiting the stars every 25 hours. Researchers suggest that the exact regularity of the structures that pass through (dims the star’s light every 23 minutes) keeps them in such an accurate arrangement by nearby planets. I concluded.

Lead author Jay Farihi (UCL Physics & Astronomy) said: Habitable zone Of a white dwarf.

“The moon-sized structure we observed is not a solid sphere, but an irregular, dusty (comet-like) one. Absolute regularity that passes in front of the stars every 23 minutes. Is a mystery that cannot be explained at present.

“The exciting possibility is that these objects are kept in such an evenly spaced orbital pattern due to the effects of the gravity of nearby planets. Without this effect, the structure would be structured by friction and collision. It disperses and loses the exact regularity observed. This “shepherd” precedent is a way to help create a stable ring structure around which the gravitational pull of the moon around Kaioh and Saturn orbits them. .. planet..

“The possibility of a planet in the habitable zone is exciting and unexpected. We weren’t looking for this, but we need more evidence to confirm the existence of a planet. It is important to keep in mind that it is not possible to observe planets. As it is directly, confirmation may come by comparing computer models with further observations of stars and orbiting debris. ”

This orbit around the white dwarf is expected to have been wiped out during the giant stage of its life. Therefore, planets that can potentially host water, and thus life, will be a recent development. The area is habitable for at least 2 billion years, including at least 1 billion years ahead.

Over 95% of all stars will eventually become white dwarfs. The exception is the largest star that explodes into a black hole or neutron star.

“Our sun will become a white dwarf in billions of years, so our research will give us a glimpse into the future of our own solar system,” added Professor Farich.

As the stars begin to run out of hydrogen, they expand and cool, becoming red giants. The Sun will enter this stage in 4 to 5 billion years, swallowing Mercury, Venus, and perhaps Earth. When the outer matter is gently blown off and hydrogen is discharged, the star’s hot core remains and slowly cools for billions of years. This is the white dwarf phase of a star.

Planets orbiting white dwarfs are much darker than main sequence stars (such as the Sun) and are difficult for astronomers to detect. So far, astronomers have only found tentative evidence of gas giants (like Jupiter) orbiting the white dwarf.

In a new study, researchers observed the white dwarf 117, WD1054–226. Light year A ULTRACAM high-speed camera fixed to the ESO 3.5m New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile is used to record light changes over 18 nights. To better interpret the changes in light, researchers also examined data from the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Exploration Satellite (TESS). This allowed researchers to confirm that the planetary structure has a 25-hour orbit.

They found that the light from WD1054–226 was always somewhat hidden by a huge cloud of orbiting matter passing in front of it. This suggests a ring of planetary debris orbiting the stars.

The habitable zone, sometimes called the Goldilocks zone, is the temperature at which liquid water can theoretically exist on the surface of the planet. Compared to a star like the Sun, the white dwarf has a smaller habitable zone and emits less white dwarf, making it closer to a star. Light Therefore, it heats up.

Structures observed in research orbits of areas that would have been surrounded by stars when they were red giants may have formed or arrived relatively recently rather than survived the birth of the star and its planetary system. I have.

The last moment of the wreckage of the planet I saw for the first time

For more information:
Relentless and complex transit from the planetesimal debris disk, Monthly Notification of the Royal Astronomical Society (2021). DOI: 10.1093 / mnras / stab3475

Quote: The first planetary body observed in the habitable zone of the dead star (February 11, 2022) is https: // Obtained from February 11, 2022

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The first planetary body observed in the habitable zone of a dead star

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