Planet Discovered That Survived Its Star’s Death: A Crystal Ball Into Our Solar System’s Future – SciTechDaily

Jupiter-Like Exoplanet Orbiting a White Dwarf

Artist’s rendition of a newly discovered Jupiter-like exoplanet orbiting a white dwarf, or dead star. This system is evidence that planets can survive their host star’s explosive red giant phase and is the very first confirmed planetary system that serves as an analog to the fate of the Sun and Jupiter in our own solar system. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

Giant gas planet orbiting a dead star gives glimpse into the predicted aftermath of our sun’s demise.

Astronomers have discovered the very first confirmed planetary system that resembles the expected fate of our solar system, when the Sun reaches the end of its life in about five billion years.

The researchers detected the system using W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi; it consists of a


Artist rendering of a main sequence star ballooning into a red giant as it burns the last of its hydrogen fuel, then collapses into a white dwarf. What remains is a hot, dense core roughly the size of Earth and about half the mass of the Sun. A gas giant similar to Jupiter orbits from a distance, surviving the explosive transformation. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

“This evidence confirms that planets orbiting at a large enough distance can continue to exist after their star’s death,” says Joshua Blackman, an astronomy postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tasmania in Australia and lead author of the study. “Given that this system is an analog to our own solar system, it suggests that Jupiter and Jupiter-Like Exoplanet Orbiting a White Dwarf

Artist’s rendition of a newly discovered Jupiter-like exoplanet orbiting a white dwarf, or dead star. This system is evidence that planets can survive their host star’s explosive red giant phase and is the very first confirmed planetary system that serves as an analog to the fate of the Sun and Jupiter in our own solar system. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

“Earth’s future may not be so rosy because it is much closer to the Sun,” says co-author David Bennett, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland and Jupiter's Possible Future

Artist rendering of Jupiter and its white dwarf host. If humans survive to see the Sun die, they could theoretically move to a Jovian moon and remain safely in orbit. However, they could not rely on the diminished heat from the stellar corpse of our Sun once it collapses into a white dwarf. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

A white dwarf is what main sequence stars like our Sun become when they die. In the last stages of the stellar life cycle, a star burns off all of the hydrogen in its core and balloons into a red giant star. It then collapses into itself, shrinking into a white dwarf, where all that’s left is a hot, dense core, typically Earth-sized and half as massive as the Sun. Because these compact stellar corpses are small and no longer have the nuclear fuel to radiate brightly, white dwarfs are very faint and difficult to detect.

High-resolution near-infrared images obtained with Keck Observatory’s laser guide star adaptive optics system paired with its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRC2) reveal the newly-discovered white dwarf is about 60 percent of the Sun’s mass and its Jupiter-Like Planet Escapes Dying Star's Explosive Red Giant Phase

Artist rendering of a dying sequence star with an orbiting planet. The star is in the red giant phase when it burns the last of its nuclear fuel before collapsing in on itself and forming a smaller, fainter white dwarf. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

“We have also been able to rule out the possibility of a DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03869-6

About Adaptive Optics

W. M. Keck Observatory is a distinguished leader in the field of adaptive optics (AO), a breakthrough technology that removes the distortions caused by the turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. Keck Observatory pioneered the astronomical use of both natural guide star (NGS) and laser guide star adaptive optics (LGS AO) and current systems now deliver images three to four times sharper than the

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