Wednesday, October 20, 2021
HomeTechAstronomers discover a planet that survived the explosion of its natal star

Astronomers discover a planet that survived the explosion of its natal star

An artist’s rendering shows what it might have been like when the star died and its Jupiter-like planet survived.

WM Keck Observatory / Adam Makarenko

Our sun has a time limit. It will reach the end of its life around 5 billion years from now. What will our solar system be like after the death of the sun? Astronomers found a distant solar system that hints at the fate of the planets in ours. Earth will likely be hit, but Jupiter could survive.

A. study published Wednesday in the journal Nature details a Jupiter-like planet in a Jupiter-like orbit around a dead white dwarf star. The system is located near the center of the Milky Way and its discovery through the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii shows that some of the planets in our own system could continue to exist even after our star goes through its inevitable tantrum at the end of its life. in the distant future.

“This evidence confirms that planets that orbit a large enough distance can continue to exist after the death of their star.” said lead author Joshua Blackman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tasmania in Australia. “Since this system is analogous to our own solar system, it suggests that Jupiter and Saturn could survive the red giant phase of the sun, when it runs out of nuclear fuel and self-destructs.”

Our sun is expected to go through a few phases when it dies. It will expand into a red giant a phase that NASA describes as “typically the most violent moment in a star’s life.” This is when the Earth will take a beating and become uninhabitable and probably destroyed.

The sun will then settle into its white dwarf form like a dead star that cools and fades. That’s the kind of star astronomers saw orbiting a Jupiter-like planet. Keck Observatory shared a video animation of what that distant solar system and its surviving planet may have experienced.

Co-author David Bennett of the University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center suggested that a move to a moon of Jupiter and Saturn might be worth considering. That assumes that humanity still exists. It means that our long-term ambitions for interplanetary life should include a look at some of Jupiter’s tantalizing moons, such as Europa, the target of an upcoming NASA mission.

Moving to the Jupiter neighborhood would not solve all of our problems. As Bennett pointed out, “… we couldn’t depend on the sun’s heat like a white dwarf for long.”

Some previous research, including a 2020 document describing a giant planet that dodged destruction by its own star, it shows that survival is a possibility despite the tendency for these stars to fade into a blaze of glory. Scientists are still figuring out how common or rare this could be.

The disappearance of our sun is not an urgent problem for humanity, but it is not a bad idea to think ahead. An extremely optimistic vision, inspired by science fiction, could see a human civilization in the distant future coming to live not only beyond Earth and Mars and even Jupiter, but into other solar systems long before our planet becomes toasted.

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