SPACE – What will be left of our system after the Sun dies? A study published this Wednesday, October 13 in the scientific journal Nature, provides some answers to the question. Researchers have found evidence of a giant gas planet, similar in mass to Jupiter, survived after the death of its star.
This planet, called MOA-2010-BLG477Lb, was discovered in 2010 by “gravitational microlens”, a technique sensitive to cold planets and not dependent on the light of the host star. In this study, Joshua Blackman and his colleagues obtained deep exposures of the field surrounding this gaseous planet. The authors determined that this planet formed together with its host star and that it survived after its death.
The gas giant’s host star is actually a white dwarf. When a star has consumed all of its fuel – hydrogen – in its nucleus, it grows larger devouring everything in its path. The star shrinks and then settles down to become an ultra-dense structure: a white dwarf.
The remarkable fact is therefore that the gas giant remained after the explosion of its star, in a relatively close orbit. This planet is approximately 2.8 AU from its star. Generally, the orbital distance attributed to this kind of phenomenon is 5 or 6 astronomical units (AU). Jupiter is also located 5.2 AU from our Sun.
Giant gas planets can therefore survive the giant phase of the evolution of their host star. At least half of white dwarfs are said to have similar planetary companions. This discovery therefore shows that everything will not necessarily disappear in our system after the degeneration of our star.
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