Planet Found Orbiting a Dead Star Puzzles Scientists

A planet that orbits a white dwarf may not represent any surprise for you if you don’t possess a decent general knowledge about astronomy, but for an astronomer, this scenario is as wild as it can be. A white dwarf is what some stars become after they consume their fuel. Near the end of their nuclear burning stage, these stars expel most of the outer material. The outcome is a planetary nebula, and a hot core remains.

An international team of astronomers was using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the Spitzer Space Telescope for discovering a large object the size of Jupiter that orbits around a white dwarf, which represent a totally unexpected sight.

WD 1856 b enters the scene

WD 1856 b is the name of the object found. If further studies confirm, we’re talking about the first intact planet that orbits close to a white dwarf star.  WD 1856 b makes a full rotation around its host star known as WD 1856+534 in only 34 hours. The white dwarf itself measures only about 11,000 miles across, which is perfectly normal for this type of stars.

Andrew Vanderburg, who is leader of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, declared:

“WD 1856 b somehow got very close to its white dwarf and managed to stay in one piece,

“The white dwarf creation process destroys nearby planets, and anything that later gets too close is usually torn apart by the star’s immense gravity. We still have many questions about how WD 1856 b arrived at its current location without meeting one of those fates.”

If you want to arrive to the WD 1856 b planet, you’ll have to somehow travel around 80 light-years, all the way to the northern constellation Draco.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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