Potential planet found orbiting a dead star • Earth.com

Potential planet found orbiting a dead star


Potential planet found orbiting a dead star Today’s Video of the Day from NASA Goddard describes the first possible example of an intact planet closely orbiting a small dead star.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the retired Spitzer Space Telescope detected a large object that appears to be a giant gaseous planet. The data also reveals the presence of a smaller object that looks like a white dwarf – a dead star that has burned up all of its nuclear fuel.

These bizarre objects are not young at all — they are the cold, dead remnants of low-mass stars like the Sun, and the gravestones of planetary systems like ours. As the remains of the planetary system continue to decay, the pounding of the white dwarf becomes more sporadic. But occasionally, a large rocky object will pass close enough that the dead star’s powerful gravity will tear it apart. The debris forms a dusty disk around the white dwarf.

The potential planet, known as WD 1856 b, is about seven times larger than the white dwarf, which it circles every 34 hours. The scientists estimate that the planet has about 14 times the mass of Jupiter. Because nuclear fusion can no longer override gravity, the star’s atoms collapse on themselves. Protons merge with electrons to form neutrons, which are then so tightly packed that a teaspoonful could weigh as much as a mountain. The gravity of even more dense stars can overcome even neutron degeneracy pressure. As shown above Potential planet found orbiting a dead star.

Video Credit: NASA Goddard 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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